The term “shock poll” is thrown around so often that it has lost its meaning. It has become more commonly applied to revelations in public opinion surveys that are anything but shocking. A recent Fox News survey, however, certainly deserves to be dubbed a “shock poll.” The revelations contained within its release were positively stunning.
According to the latest Fox News survey, Americans do not believe that the administration has been aggressive enough in its effort to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear bomb. More than eight in ten Americans say that the prospective deal that the Obama administration is pursuing with Iran is a bad one. Most think President Barack Obama is a weak negotiator and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress was a blessing. Finally, a majority – nearly two-thirds – think that the United States should be willing to use military force in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Some 55 percent think it would be “a disaster” if Iran were to obtain the capability to use nuclear weapons, while 40 percent sees it as “a problem that can be managed.” Those sentiments are unchanged from 2010.
There’s a huge gap between Democrats and Republicans on how worrisome an Iran with nukes would be. By a 10 percentage-point margin, Democrats are more likely to say it’s a problem that could be managed (51 percent) over a disaster (41 percent). Republicans, by a 42-point margin, say a nuclear Iran would be a disaster (70-28 percent).
Overall, two-thirds of voters (65 percent) favor the U.S. using military action, if necessary, to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Just 28 percent are opposed.
To varying degrees, majorities of Republicans (81 percent), Democrats (54 percent) and independents (53 percent) agree on using force to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
That level of consensus is surprising primarily because it is not reflected in the political press. The center-left media is allergic to the notion that military force against Iran would ever be justified, not to mention the fact that most appear to believe that strikes on Iran would not prevent it from achieving breakout status. In fact, the left’s prominent voices are more apt to side with Obama over members of their own party in Congress on the issue of renewed sanctions on Iran. Many in the center-left media agree with Obama’s contention that the imposition of a tripwire consisting of new sanctions should nuclear negotiations fail would only hasten the collapse of those talks.
Can the political press and the liberal intelligentsia really be that out of touch with their constituency? Well, those on the left would argue that this survey’s question wording was designed to elicit the responses that it generated.
“Do you favor or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran if that were the only way to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons?” pollsters with Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) asked respondents. Some would say that this question is poorly worded and it is not surprising that it generated a hawkish response from respondents. There will always be options short of force which the left will claim might still prevent Iran’s nuclearization, and they will make that contention right up until the seismographs spike and an Iranian peak on the outskirts of Qom rumbles to life with nuclear fire.
That’s not the only poorly worded question from the left’s point of view. “Do you think it’s a good idea or a bad idea to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons 10 years from now in return for it agreeing that it won’t obtain nuclear weapons before then?” respondents were asked. Even the Obama administration would agree that this is a suboptimal proposition. According to the terms the public has been privy to, a sunset clause would allow Iran to again begin enriching Uranium gradually over the course of the final five years of a prospective deal. Critics of the proposed accord would contend that this is a distinction without a difference, but that concedes that there is a distinction.
Moreover, critics of this poll will argue that survey respondents are inconsistent. Only 55 percent say that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a “disaster” while 40 percent say that is an issue that can be managed. That’s not consistent with the 65 percent who say force would be needed to prevent a nuclear breakout.
So, maybe the public isn’t as hawkish as they are portrayed by this survey when it comes to Iran, but they are not pacifists either. Taken in conjunction with the new revelation that a majority of the public wants to send ground forces back to the Middle East to combat ISIS, it is clear that the public is favoring a more proactive approach to confronting geopolitical threats.