The press release for Quinnipiac University’s National Poll leads with the findings that “American voters say Iran sanctions aren’t working. … 50 percent say bomb Iran if sanctions don’t work.” But an examination of the polling questions reveals some surprising bias and outright misstatement of facts by the pollsters. Take the following questions:
43. How closely have you been following news about Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons – Would you say you have been following it very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?
44. Do you consider Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons to be a very serious threat to U.S. national security, a somewhat serious threat, not a very serious threat or not a threat to U.S. national security?
45. How effective do you think the U.S. and its allies policy of economic sanctions against Iran have been in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all?
46. Do you think the U.S. should take military action to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon or not?
47. (If No q46) If the economic sanctions are unable to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, do you think the U.S. should take military action to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon or not?
48. If Israel were to attack Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program, would you want the U.S. to, support Israel’s military action, oppose Israel’s military action, or would you want the US to stay neutral?
Either Quinnipiac University has information about Iran’s nuclear program that wasn’t available to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), or the entire Iran section of the poll was full of leading questions assuming Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Earlier this month, a senior Obama administration official told the National Journal:
The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program nor does it have a program [sic] about how advanced the programs really are.
The IAEA report did flag a number of “serious concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program but came up well short of asserting that Tehran had resumed its halted nuclear weapons program from 2003.
While Quinnipiac University’s findings that “50 percent of U.S. voters support military action if sanctions fail” are disturbing, the pollsters may have seriously misled respondents by suggesting that there is conclusive evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program or that a military attack could be effective in destroying Iran’s alleged weapons program. Indeed, such assertions, and the resulting polling statistics, serve to tilt public opinion toward preemptive military action when intelligence reports paint a far more complex picture of Iran’s nuclear program and the extremely risky outcomes of an Israeli and/or U.S. airstrike.
When reached for comment, Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, declined to answer questions about the poll’s questions or methodology. He told ThinkProgress, “The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute stands by its questions and by its results.”