ReThink examined domestic US press coverage of nuclear weapons and nuclear security issues from January 2009 to December 2014, as well as Twitter coverage from 2014 and Facebook and YouTube coverage more broadly. It pairs this research with an examination of every available public and proprietary poll on the topic from 2009 to 2014.
The principle goal of the project is to inform the media and communications strategies of arms control, disarmament, and nuclear security organizations and their funders for 2015–2020.
The research also coincides with a key historical moment with four distinct characteristics.
First, while President Obama came into office with a clear commitment to pursuing arms reductions and nuclear security, it is unclear whether any of his potential successors have a similar commitment to addressing the nuclear threat.
Second, there are no major arms control or reduction agendas on the near horizon. During the two Obama terms, the START Treaty, the Nuclear Security Summit process, and negotiations with Iran all drove major amounts of media attention to nuclear issues. The news cycles surrounding these debates provided ample opportunity to address major policy questions and provided a platform that advocates exploited very successfully. At the outset of the next administration, however, it appears very likely that advocates will have to strategically develop campaigns and policy initiatives designed, at least in part, to keep the nuclear threat before the public eye.
Third, the belligerent policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin coincide with congressional efforts to advance nearly a trillion dollars in new nuclear weapons funding, aimed at “modernizing” US nuclear forces. In short, Putin’s policies are a dream come true for those who advocate rearmament.
Finally, there is a clear political need to confront the serious challenges of broadening and deepening the constituency for further arms reductions and greater progress toward nuclear security. A shrinking constituency for disarmament—one that is increasingly unreflective of the populace as a whole—poses a very real threat to finishing the incomplete work of nuclear disarmament and nuclear security. While a mass constituency may not be required, the fact remains that few, if any, policy agendas are achieved without an engaged constituency.
This report also sets a benchmark for evaluating the media and communications work of the sector as a whole and at various points; this analysis refers to the benchmarks set in a previous report that ReThink Media completed and presented in 2009.