Reports that Americans have become less favorable toward detente and have cooled on their desire to see the United States and the Soviet Union agree on strategic arms limitations have no basis in fact. To the contrary, a sizable majority of the public apparently deeply hopes that agreements between the world's two leading superpowers can be achieved.
Despite claims to the contrary, an April 29-May 6 survey of 1,563 adults nationwide has found:
A 71-to-15 percent majority favors "detente - that is, the United States and Russia seeking out areas of agreement and cooperation." A year ago, a slightly higher 75-to-10 percent majority supported detente, while in 1976 a 73-to-16 percent majority held the same view.
Specifically, a 75-to-12 percent majority favors the United States and Russia coming to a new SALT arms control agreement that would limit the number of nuclear warheads and missiles they can deploy. Just a year ago, the margin was 66-to-8 percent. In the past 14 months, support for SALT has gone up 9 points.
Recently, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and chief arms negotiator Paul C. Warnke reported that real progress had been made on SALT negotiations and that final agreement might be only a matter of weeks away. It has been suggested that Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev might well be invited to visit President Carter in Washington this summer for a summit meeting, at which new SALT agreements would be announced.
On three other key areas of potential U.S.-Soviet agreement, massive majorities favor:
"Increasing trade between the U.S. and Russia." A 70-to-18 percent majority nationwide registers approval, up slightly from the 66-to-16 percent majority who felt the same way in 1977.
An agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to "end all nuclear weapons testing." Americans approved by 74-to-17 percent; a year ago, a 75-to-12 percent majority favored such an agreement.
The United States granting Russia "the same trading rights with us as most other nations have." A 63-to-12 percent majority back such a move, which would mean giving the Soviets the "most favored nation" rights.
It is clear from these findings that there is still a favorable climate for detente in this country. Large majorities feel that in a nuclear era, confrontations between the two leading nations in the world must be avoided.
At the same time, according to recent Harris surveys. Americans are uneasy about Soviet and Cuban military activities in Africa, as well as about violations of human rights within the Soviet Union. And the public seems not hesitate to make forcefull representations to the Kremlin on these matters.
However, Americans do not want the progress of the SALT talks and the prospects for increased trade linked too closely with these other issues. The public believes that a policy of pluralism must be a cornerstone of U.S.-Soviet relations in this advanced nuclear age.