A new poll released yesterday showed Americans exhibiting strong support for the U.S. and its partners “continuing to pursue negotiations with Iran” over the country’s disputed nuclear program. Released by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and the University of Maryland, the poll (PDF) found that nearly seven in ten Americans favored continuing diplomacy, with just a quarter opting for an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
As part of the Obama administration’s dual-track policy toward Iran — crippling pressure and negotiations aimed at attaining the “best and most permanent way” to end the standoff with a diplomatic deal — the U.S. garnered support at the U.N. Security council for sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and at the U.N. Human Rights Council for a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran that has condemned Iranian abuses.
While poll respondents took a pessimistic view of Iran’s nuclear program and Western efforts to block it — a vast majority thought Iran will eventually develop a nuclear weapon — their views on the matter, at times, diverged from conclusions drawn from publicly available evidence and statements by top American security officials. For instance, 58 percent of respondents thought Iran has decided on producing a weapon and is actually working toward that aim. But, despite “serious concerns,” the International Atomic Energy Agency’s most recent report contains no such assertions.
However, majorities of Americans think the U.S. should discourage allies from militarily attacking Iran. This may be due to perceived negative consequences of an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. More than half of poll respondents thought bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would either strengthen the position of the Iranian regime among the country’s population, or have no effect at all on its popularity. Responding to a question about the effects of a strike on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, 42 percent of those surveyed said Iran’s program would be delayed for less than five years. Only 18 percent thought Iran’s program would be delayed longer than that, and 22 percent thought Iran’s nuclear program would be accelerated as a result of an attack.
However, Obama administration’s policy still deems Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon unacceptable — an Iranian bomb would pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies and interests — and keeps all options on the table to avert it. But as Obama has said, “a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better.”