Foreign Policy Blogs

Going Beyond the State- Part 2: The United States

My last blog examined the public opinion in Iran, looking at how the Iranians felt about their nuclear program and their perception about the United States.  Continuing with the theme of deciphering public opinion, this blog will examine the American public’s viewpoint.  The Pew Center for the People and the Press has released a survey report examining American public’s reaction on the Iranian nuclear program and what the public feels is the best way to deal with Iran.

The survey found that the American public approves of direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, but are pessimistic about the outcome of the talks.  More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) approve of the United States negotiating directly with Iran over the issue of its nuclear program while 28% oppose such talks.  The talks also have bipartisan support: 64% of Democrats approve of these negotiations, as do 64% of independents and 63% of Republicans.  Yet while the public supports nuclear talks with Iran, a clear majority (64%) says they will not work in getting Iran to give up its nuclear program, compared with just 22% who say they will work.

The survey also revealed that the American public strongly approves of tougher economic sanctions against Iran.  78% are in favour of stronger sanctions, while only 12% oppose such sanctions.  But once again, majority of Americans (56%) are skeptical that tougher economic sanctions would work in halting Iran’s nuclear program.

Another interesting revelation from the survey is that the American public is willing to use military force to prevent Iran from going nuclear.  A strong majority – 61% – says that it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action.  Far fewer (24%) say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran, if it means that the country may develop nuclear weapons.  The willingness to use military force also has bipartisan support.  Seven-in-ten Republicans (71%) and two-thirds of independents (66%) say it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons even if it means taking military action.  Fewer Democrats (51%) express this view; still, only about three-in-ten Democrats (31%) say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran, if it means Tehran may develop nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats and Republicans do have different opinions regarding Obama’s capability  in dealing with Iran.  Seven-in-ten Democrats (71%) have confidence in Obama on Iran while 19% express little or no confidence in the president.  Just 30% of Republicans say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing in dealing with Iran while 66% are not too confident or not at all confident.  Independents are evenly split, with 49% expressing at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama on Iran and 48% expressing little or no confidence.



Sahar Zubairy

Sahar Zubairy recently graduated from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas- Austin with Masters in Global Policy Studies. She graduated from Texas A&M University with Phi Beta Kappa honors in May 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. In Summer 2008, she was the Southwest Asia/Gulf Intern at the Henry L. Stimson Center, where she researched Iran and the Persian Gulf. She was also a member of a research team that helped develop a website investigating the possible effects of closure of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf by Iran.