Americans say 4 nations are greatest enemies

Posted at 9:46 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 21:46:13-05

Amid all the recent talk about ISIS, pollsters say the terrorist group might actually fall pretty low on Americans' list of concerns.

Gallup recently asked people which country they thought the U.S.' greatest enemy was. And for the third year in a row, the top four spots were held by the same countries: North Korea, Russia, Iran and China.

Each of the four received between 12-16 percent of the vote. To compare, only 5 percent said countries in which ISIS operates.

The reason for these numbers might be that military power isn't the only cause for concern — nuclear capabilities and economics can also play a role.

Meanwhile, ISIS lacks a nation-state's infrastructure. Just last month, the U.S. military said it literally blew up millions of the terrorist organization's dollars sitting in a building in Iraq.

The country Americans worry about most changes from year to year, though. This year, it's North Korea, but it was Russia last year and China the year before.

Yet, while China is a polarizing country, with 44 percent of Americans actually having favorable opinions, minds are pretty well made up on North Korea, with only 8 percent favoring the country.

Even the aspect that makes a country appear most threatening fluctuates. Gallup cited nuclear power more for Iran than China or Russia, despite that Russia and China both openly hold nuclear weapons, and Iran is still — publicly at least — trying to develop them.

A final takeaway: The top spot for greatest perceived enemy is getting less and less secure. 

This year's No. 1 got the lowest percentage of votes in the survey's history, as did the top threats in 2015 and 2014.

This video includes clips from CNNABCBBCThe Wall Street JournalU.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and images from Getty Images.