Washington Bureau

01.28.14

Poll: Americans Don’t Trust Obama on Iran

As Obama prepares for the State of the Union, a majority of Americans are skeptical of his Iran policy according to a new poll.

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the Iran issue and want Congress to have a say in any final agreement with Tehran over its nuclear program, according to a new poll.

As Obama prepares to address the American people in Tuesday’s State of the Union, Congress is considering new legislation to set out their vision of what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like and to impose new sanctions if the Iranian government doesn’t live up to its end of the deal or walks away from the negotiations.

A new survey, sponsored by The Israel Project, a pro-Israel non profit, and conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, found that 63 percent of those polled want Congress to move forward with the new sanctions legislation, while only 28 percent oppose. Over two-thirds of those surveyed, 69 percent, said any final nuclear deal with Iran should be approved by Congress and 62 percent said that Congress should weigh in before the Obama administration gives more sanctions relief to Iran.

"This survey shows that all Americans – Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, men and women, young and old – do not trust Iran, want Congress to have a final say on any deal, and believe passing the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act will strengthen our diplomacy,” said Josh Block, President and CEO of The Israel Project. “Seeking a tougher approach and increased pressure on Tehran, the American people reject further reduction of sanctions before Iran fully dismantles its nuclear infrastructure.”

The phone survey, conducted between Jan. 21 and 23, included 800 respondents from a wide range of political, religious, and demographic categories.

Overall, two-thirds of those who participated in the survey said the Obama administration has done an “only fair” or “poor” job of handling the Iran issue during his presidency, while  30 percent said the administration has been “good” or “excellent” when dealing with Iran.

In contrast, a slim 51 percent majority of respondents had a favorable impression of Obama overall, while 47 percent had an unfavorable impression of the President.

78 percent of respondents said yes when asked if they support they support the new Iran sanctions legislation in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). Only 15 percent opposed the legislation. 59 senators have co-sponsored the Menendez-Kirk bill but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will not bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote for now. 

The administration has argued that those pushing for more sanctions on Iran are putting the country on a path to war and new sanctions now will cause the interim deal with Iran to fall apart. After hearing that argument, poll respondents still favored proceeding with new sanctions by a 63-28 margin, including 56 percent of Democrats, with just 36 percent opposed.

Americans were also deeply distrustful of Iran. 73 percent of those polled said they believe the Iranian government is using the negotiations to stall for time while only 20 percent said they believe Iran really ever intends to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. An overwhelming majority of respondents also think that Iran should be required, as part of any final deal with the West, to completely dismantle its ability to enrich uranium to levels that would allow it to produce a nuclear weapon.

The poll also signalled that Americans were comfortable with targeted military action again Iran in the worst-case scenario. 54 percent of respondents said that Iran acquiring nuclear weapons was more dangerous than employing targeted military strikes to stop Iran from reaching that capability. 37 percent said that the strikes were more dangerous than Iran getting the bomb. When the question was framed as weighing the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons versus the importance of avoiding military action against Iran, even if that means allowing Iran to get a nuclear weapon, the disparity in opinion widened to a 68-21 split.

“If sanctions and diplomacy fail to convince Iran to give up its nuclear capability, American voters clearly say they would support military strikes rather than leave the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism with the ability to develop the apocalyptic weapons that it seeks,” said Block.

Over two-thirds of respondents said the Obama administration should make public the complete text of the interim agreement it has already signed with the Iranians. As of now, the administration has only made the text available to members of Congress and some staffers.