by Jim Lobe
The Chicago Council for Global Affairs (CCGA) has just released the highlights of a public opinion survey taken in late May and early June concerning public opinion on Iran’s nuclear program. The numbers should encourage the Obama administration in its drive to conclude a deal between the P5+1 and Tehran in the next week. (Knowledgeable sources indicate that an announcement could come as early as this weekend.) The full results of the poll, including the topline, will be released Monday, but what follows are some of the “highlights” it released Thursday.
Particular notable is the finding that, despite the virtually universal opposition to the deal among both the declared Republican presidential candidates and the Republican leadership in Congress, including ever-more-frequent appeals to the administration to walk away from the negotiations (see here and here and here), it appears that most self-identified Republican voters are split on the issue (46% support, 51% oppose). This suggests that the institutional Republican leadership’s position on Iran, overwhelmingly hostile and hawkish, fails to reflect the diversity of opinion among the party’s rank and file. This discrepancy could be explained by the disproportionate influence exerted at the party’s national level by major donors such as Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer.
This finding is roughly consistent with the results of polls in three states with very different political tendencies—Maryland (solid red state), Oklahoma (solid blue), and Virginia (purple)—released just last week by the Program for Public Consultation of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy. After being given a fairly detailed briefing of the background to and the likely contours of the prospective deal, more than seven in 10 registered voters, including six in 10 self-declared Republicans, said they would favor a deal that would curb Iran’s uranium program in exchange for lifting sanctions. Six in 10 Republicans said they would support such an agreement.
Here are the CCGA poll’s highlights:
Six in ten Americans favor the reported framework of an agreement with Iran (59%).
A solid majority of self-described Democrats (74%) and a smaller majority of Independents (57%) favor the nuclear deal, while Republicans tend to oppose it (51% oppose, 46% support).
Before any mention of the current negotiations with Iran in the survey, two in three Americans say they would support the use of U.S. troops, in principle, “to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” (67%).
Later, in the context of Iran committing a major violation of a deal, 56 percent say they would support US airstrikes specifically “to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.” Six in 10 would also support cyber-attacks against Iran’s computer systems (60%). Fewer support sending U.S. troops directly to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities (44% support, 51% oppose).
If Iran “commits a major violation of this agreement,” solid majorities also would support the U.S. imposing tighter economic sanctions on Iran (80%) and continuing diplomacy (71%).
If a deal is reached, Americans ultimately are unsure about its lasting effects. Only three in ten Americans are confident that the agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in the next ten years (29% are confident; 69% are not).
The public rates Iran’s nuclear program among the seven most critical threats facing the United States (57% say it is a critical threat).
Nearly eight in ten Americans say that Iran plays a somewhat negative (44%) or very negative (33%) role in the Middle East today.
Incidentally, the CCGA Wednesday released another poll—on public attitudes toward relations with Cuba—which didn’t get much media attention, probably because it coincided with Obama’s announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will re-open embassies in their respective countries later this month. Although the Republican presidential candidates and congressional leadership all predictably denounced the move, the survey found strong, across-the-board support for going even farther in normalizing relations with Havana.
Asked whether they supported or opposed ending the trade embargo with Cuba, two thirds (67%) of all respondents opted for the former, including 59% of self-identified Republicans. It’s really pretty remarkable how isolated the party’s leadership has become from its grassroots on key foreign-policy issues and helps demonstrate how much it has become hostage to special interests.
Photo: Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party leadership