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. @al dara
    ‘I am SURE as a regime COLLABORATOR you live in ….’

    The responsibility to humanize our traumatized country and establish law and justice does not require betraying our impoverished oppressed, our territorial integrity and independence – I am an Iranian who cares about the suffering of his fellow countrymen but refuses to appeal to foreign invaders. Have the humiliation and suffering of millions of Iraqi women and children after the 2003 US invasion been less dreadful than while under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship?

    Your short sentence with ‘total impunity’ blackmails, slanders, accuses, condemns and passes verdict – playing the prosecutor, the witness, the grand jury and the judge! In your court of law I would ‘certainly’ be condemned and executed in less than a minute!

    Is this not ‘exactly’ the kind of ‘brutality’ you’ve condemned in others but fail to see it in yourself? Has this not been our greatest tragedy shaping our ‘political culture’ at least for the past two hundred years, dear ‘educated’ al dara – always acting as a heartless Grand Inquisitor?!

    Please see my comment # 12, in:

    Jim Lobe’s article, July 6th, 2017: New Neocon Mantra: Iran, like Soviet Union, on Verge of Collapse

  2. That’s great news! 75% of US citizens actually support the Iran deal! Did you get the memo yet, President Trump? We the People want you to honor this deal. In case you haven’t heard, Iran hasn’t attacked its neighbors in 500 years. Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu’s been lying to you about Iran; don’t listen any more; tell him you’re going to honor the deal and prevent war with the Islamic State. Tell him you’re backing We the People.

  3. @Khosrow Iam one of those students too and I feel that if left unchecked the brutal regime that makes SAVAK pale in comparison will rule with an iron fist another 100 yrs. Are you for real? Do you have eyes to see what is happening in Iran or are you one of the confederation leftists who went into bed with Islamic devils so you can settle score and grab some power. That is a shame that so many intellectuals sold out so quickly. I hope you are happy with what the revolution brought to the Iranians. I am sure as a regime collaborator you live in north Tehran and spend the wknds by the Caspian sea with “senatori” and Russian maids!

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