Expect this to feature prominently in St. Barack’s next stump speech on this issue. Commenters are noting in the Headlines thread that the questions don’t specify whether the meetings should occur without preconditions; true, if that element had been emphasized we’d surely see more equivocation in the data, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to read the results as more supportive of Obama’s position than McCain’s. The question was unconditional, which, er, by definition implies that the people who answered yes weren’t too hung up about conditions. Maverick wants more leverage before the two sides chat — international divestment, new sanctions — and doubtless would demand some sort of substantive gesture of goodwill from Iran (like temporary suspension of enrichment) before he met with them. Is that really what the 58% of independents who support meeting with Iran had in mind? Bring ’em to their knees first, then negotiate? That’s a lot to infer in Gallup’s question.
Even so, notwithstanding his penchant of late for blowing with the political winds, I doubt we’ll see St. Barack abandon his incoherent new negotiations policy. He’s 20 points down to McCain already on national security and has nothing except his early Iraq war opposition (and super keen surge insights) to try to close that gap. Purchashing toughness on the cheap by pounding the table about “preparations” is a way to hold the line.