More than two-thirds of Americans oppose a deal with Iran that would allow it to maintain nuclear weapons capabilities, according to a new survey by American political strategist Frank Luntz. Americans are also overwhelmingly mistrustful of Iran, and consider it to be the country that poses the greatest threat to the United States.
The survey, shown to The Times of Israel on Tuesday, the day after US-led talks with Iran were extended till next July, also found an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the Iranians are stalling rather than negotiating in good faith, and that the regime in Tehran cannot be relied upon to honor any accord it may reach.
More broadly, Americans overwhelmingly feel the world to be less safe today than 10 years ago, and believe America is weaker today than it was 10 years ago.
According to the findings, 69% of Americans would reject a deal under which Iran agreed to stop R&D but kept its current nuclear capabilities, compared to 31% who would accept such a deal.
The survey also showed 62% of Americans consider that Iran is an enemy of the US, while 37% consider it neutral, and 1% consider it an ally. It found that 73% of Americans consider that Iran is an enemy of Israel, while 25% consider it neutral, and 1% consider it an ally.
‘America is polarized. But when it comes to Iran, they’re united: no nuclear — not now, not ever, no excuses, no exceptions’
— Frank Luntz
A staggering 81% of respondents do not believe the current government in Iran can be trusted to keep agreements, compared to 5% who think it can be trusted. And an even more overwhelming 85% do not believe the Iranians’ assertions that their nuclear program is peaceful, as compared to 8% who do.
“When it comes to Iran, the Israeli prime minister is closer to the American people than the US president,” Luntz said of the findings. This was a reference to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for any deal with Iran to provide for the dismantling of Iran’s entire nuclear weapons capability, while US President Barack Obama has indicated willingness for a deal which would allow Iran to maintain a strictly supervised capacity to enrich uranium.
Broadly speaking, “no matter how you analyze it, 70% of Americans don’t want a deal that allows Iran to maintain nuclear capabilities, against 15% that are somewhat undecided and 15% who don’t care [if Iran retains a nuclear weapons capability],” said Luntz. “That’s as universal a finding as anything I’ve done in recent years. America is polarized. But when it comes to Iran, they’re united: no nuclear — not now, not ever, no excuses, no exceptions.”
In similar vein, the survey found 49% of Americans consider Iran to be the country that constitutes the greatest threat to the United States, followed by Iraq (15%), Pakistan (13%), Afghanistan (12%), Syria (9%) and Israel (3%). Four percent of Democrats consider Israel the greatest threat, and 1% of Republicans.
In the current nuclear talks, where the US-led P5+1 nations on Monday agreed to an extension of negotiations till the beginning of next July, 87% of Americans believe the Iranians are stalling, compared to 13% who see Tehran negotiating in good faith.
Asked what type of action should be taken to counter Iran’s nuclear program, 46% said sanctions, 19% economic diplomacy, 16% targeted strikes at Iranian nuclear facilities, and 10% support for the Iranian opposition, while 9% favor accepting the reality that Iran will eventually get nuclear weapons.
If Iran kept going with its nuclear program, the survey found 50% of Americans supporting US military action, compared to 29% opposed; and 55% supporting Israeli military action, compared to 27% opposed.
Asked broader questions about world safety and American power, 83% of respondents said the world was less safe today than 10 years ago, compared to 17% who consider it safer today. And 67% think America is weaker today than 10 years ago, compared to 33% who think it is stronger.
“America used to be the most optimistic country,” noted Luntz. “This is the first time I’ve seen Americans generally afraid for the future.”
Luntz also posed questions about the “chickenshit” affair, in which an unnamed US administration official was quoted by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg using the epithet to describe Netanyahu. Asked how the president should have responded to the affair, 30% said he should have found the individual responsible and fired him, 25% said he should have found the individual responsible and reprimanded him, 35% said he should have apologized to Netanyahu, and 11% said he should have ignored the episode. In practice, Secretary of State John Kerry apologized to Netanyahu.
The figures come from questions put to a total of 1,800 American voters nationwide, in two internet surveys conducted by Luntz on behalf of pro-Israel organizations The Israel Project and Stand With Us. The surveys were completed on Sunday, and Luntz, who is currently visiting Israel, said the margin of error was 3%.
Luntz, a pollster and communications consultant who has had significant ties to Israel for the past decade, is talking through the findings with Israeli leaders across the spectrum, and will also present them to American leaders across the spectrum in 10 days’ time.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
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