Poll: Three Quarters of Americans Support the Iran Deal

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by Derek Davison

If Donald Trump succeeds in pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA), he won’t just face opposition from Tehran or from America’s European allies: he’ll have to deal with opposition from the American people. That’s one takeaway from a new poll, “American Attitudes on Middle East Policies,” released by the Middle East Institute this week. The survey, conducted in June by the polling firm Ipsos, found that 30 percent of Americans strongly support and 45 percent somewhat support “the deal with Iran to limit their development of nuclear weapons.” That level of support was relatively consistent across gender, age ranges, geography, and income and education levels.

Americans are overall less enthusiastic about opening diplomatic channels between the U.S. and Iran, but a majority (54 percent) still supports the idea, against 32 percent opposed. Men, young people, and people with college degrees are more likely to support opening relations with Iran than women, older people, and those without college degrees.

The survey found most Americans (55 percent) opposed to Trump’s “position towards the Muslim world,” and it’s not hard to see why. Asked to agree or disagree with the statement “respecting the Muslim-American community in the U.S. is vital to prevent future terror attacks,” 68 percent agree, compared to 24 percent who disagree. Although Trump personally may or may not be to blame, there’s no doubt that his election has coincided with an increase in hostility toward the Muslim-American community. Additionally, 58 percent of Americans agree with the statement that “countries of the Muslim world are allies in the fight against terrorism.” With rare exceptions—Saudi Arabia and Egypt most prominently—Trump has not done much to strengthen U.S. relations with majority Muslim states.

Opposition to Trump’s Middle East policies may also have something to do with the fact that most Americans don’t think the war against the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) is going well. About 73 percent believe either that “the war with ISIS is basically a draw” (47 percent) or that “the U.S. and allies are losing the war with ISIS” (26 percent). This is certainly an interesting result given the steady stream of news about major IS defeats (in Mosul, Hawijah, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and elsewhere) coming out of Iraq and Syria of late.

It’s not clear what has caused this level of pessimism, but it clearly hasn’t dampened Americans’ interest in continuing the anti-IS fight: 82 percent support “U.S. involvement in the fight to defeat ISIS.” Meanwhile, 75 percent agree either that “the U.S. has a responsibility to try to limit or end the conflicts in the Middle East” (25 percent) or that “the U.S. should stay engaged in the Middle East, but let them resolve their own conflicts” (50 percent). Only a quarter of Americans believe the U.S. “should get out of the Middle East.”

A plurality of Americans (48 percent) does agree with Trump’s policy toward (or rather, against) admitting refugees from the Middle East, against 43 percent who believe that the U.S. should admit more Middle Eastern refugees. According to the Pew Research Center, the share of the world’s refugee population accepted by the U.S. has dropped to its lowest level (0.2 percent) since at least 1980, far lower than its historical average of 0.6 percent. The Trump administration has asked Congress to reduce the ceiling for refugee admissions to the U.S. in future years as part of its overall immigration policy, at a time when refugees coming to the U.S. are increasingly likely to come from the Middle East or Africa.

The MEI poll included one other finding of note. Although a substantial majority of Americans (73 percent) support “America’s military backing of Israel,” a smaller majority (54 percent, with 32 percent opposed) believe that “the United States should push Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians for peace.” There’s no evidence that Israel is prepared to make concessions to the Palestinians, and nothing but some occasional rhetoric from the Trump administration suggests that this president has any interest in pushing Israel to do so.

Photo: Activists take part in a rally to commemorate the nuclear deal with Iran in front of the White House, on July 14, 2017 in Washington.

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Derek Davison

Derek Davison is a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics. He has Master's degrees in Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago, where he specialized in Iranian history and policy, and in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, where he studied American foreign policy and Russian/Cold War history. He previously worked in the Persian Gulf for The RAND Corporation.

9 Comments

  1. How depressing. The ignorance of the US public, helped by the conformist and deceptive US media, hinders any hope of real progress. How can 73% support the unfair and dangerous policies towards Israel, while encouraging wars in Muslim nations but not wanting to take the resulting refugees because they are Muslims? (a powerful example-the USA took only 85000 TOTAL refugees in 2016, while YEMEN, one of the poorest nations, accepted 117000! )Yemen, being destroyed by US bombs and the Saudi “allies of h the USA). Details from Kathy Kelly, actually present in Yemen.

  2. In spite of their politics, we should make every effort to keep friendship and dialog going with the Iranians. We educated SO MANY of their young people at our Universities during the 1970’s – 1980’s. Is Israel behind the hatred? I hope not.

  3. re: 30 percent of Americans strongly support and 45 percent somewhat support the deal

    Statistics is not my field. Does this mean that 45 percent somewhat don’t support the deal (or don’t somewhat support the deal), plus 25 percent are against it, IOW 70 percent don’t fully support the deal? . . .Which would belie the headline.

  4. You are perhaps suggesting that the publisher should have included a link to the actual study, which they did.

  5. @ Margaret Mollick

    … ‘make every effort to keep friendship and dialog going with the Iranians. We educated SO MANY of their young people at our Universities during the 1970’s – 1980’s’

    I am one of those Iranians educated at your universities during the ’70s and early ’80s; Israeli was not an issue yet- only the American ‘boys’: the US Embassy ‘heroes’ whose ordeal and the hysterical mainstream media had incited the most uncivilized behavior among your ‘educated’ American students, in particular your revered American officials!

    Our collective memory of the American politicians and media spans several decades; their intentional political and historical amnesia, their immense arrogance and propensity for violence and above all unabashed perjury and institutional denial. But more disturbing being the ‘silence’ of the American public; the majority of whom never understand the political and cultural history of other nations; that for us Iranians every life matters, because we mourn our dead every Friday – our fallen men and women in the long war and the victims of the Shah’s savage SAVAK trained by your revered torturers on their civilizing missions.

    Yes, we evoke our collective memory every week; it is a perpetual rendezvous Margaret, with our loved ones and their painful past, the past in which our American friends ruthlessly played fateful murderous roles with their ‘guilt-free’ ingenuity and ruthless greed. Their hatred and hunger for domination and exploitation know no boundaries – because ‘guilt’ and ‘moral responsibility’ towards others have no place in their American psyche – and if they have we haven’t seen any nor have the Vietnamese or millions of victims of the US Imperialism.

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