The NATO Military Alliance

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The NATO Military Alliance

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in the wake of World War II and the start of the Cold War, on April 4th, 1949, exactly 75 years ago. NATO started with 12 founding members and has since grown to 32 members, with Finland and Sweden as the most recent additions, triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Since 2019, ActiVote has asked voters their opinion about NATO Membership, as well as about the NATO Budget. The full text of these two questions is listed below:

NATO MEMBERSHIP (answered by 15,488 people)

Which of these statements best reflects your opinion on NATO membership?

  • The mission of NATO is no longer relevant and should be dissolved.
  • The US should withdraw from NATO, it should be a European organization.
  • NATO should remain in its current state.
  • All European countries currently eligible should be encouraged to join, and NATO should help other countries aspiring for membership to meet the political and economic criteria necessary.
  • NATO is paramount to security and peace, and membership should be extended to countries around the world.

NATO BUDGET (answered by 4,586 people).

Which of the following statements best reflects your opinion about budget for NATO?

  • NATO membership should not be questioned.
  • NATO membership should not be questioned but we should lobby for increased contributions by the other countries.
  • NATO membership should be questioned if countries do not meet their obligations by 2025.
  • NATO membership should be questioned in general.
  • We should leave NATO on short notice.

OVERALL FINDINGS

In 2019, 82% of participants felt that NATO should stay the same or even expand, with only 18% wishing to leave NATO or have it dissolved. Support dropped in 2020 and 2021 to 73% and 71% respectively. In 2022 and 2023 support increased again to 75% and 74%, possibly in the wake of the Russian invasion and the collaboration between several NATO allies in supporting Ukraine. In 2024 support for NATO has dropped to the lowest recorded level in our poll of just 65%, perhaps due to “Ukraine fatigue” and increased calls to be less involved in foreign conflicts.

In 2019, there was significant support for NATO no matter what (27%), but a plurality believed that we should lobby for increased contributions from others. Over time, the overall level of support for NATO has decreased as well as the distribution between threatening to leave (increased) and lobbying or unqualified support (decreased) has changed. Thus, people still in majority believe that NATO should be supported, but only if the other members pull their weight.

POLITICAL SPECTRUM

If we look at opinions from left to right on the political spectrum, a very clear picture appears:

In both cases, the moderate left is most supportive of NATO, while the conservatives (right) are most skeptical, with ⅔ wishing to withdraw from NATO. The progressives (left) are less supportive overall, meaning that there are about 15% who wish to leave NATO, but there are also more progressives than moderates who unconditionally support NATO.

In summary, overall NATO still has the support of Americans in general, but the level of support has been dropping slowly but surely especially on the right end of the political spectrum. This is not unexpected given that these opinions align with those of the presumptive presidential candidates for the major parties. Biden, moderate left, is strongly supportive of NATO, while Trump, right, has questioned whether the U.S. should stay in NATO.

All in all, NATO’s 75th anniversary shows it has made it to a respectable age, but there is no guarantee it will live forever. 

You can explore more details about ActiVote’s polling methodology and our latest polls.