Pollster finds support for Iran deal
By ALEXANDER BURNS | 12/2/13 7:03 PM EST Updated: 12/3/13 6:22 AM EST
Americans have a favorable early impression of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran and feel strong skepticism toward the prospect of military action against the Islamic state, according to private Democratic polling shared with POLITICO.
In a survey taken for the liberal group Americans United for Change and conducted by the firm Hart Research, a 34-percent plurality of respondents who had heard at least “a little” about the deal said they favor the White House arrangement with Iran. A total of 22 percent said they oppose the deal and 41 percent said they had no opinion or didn’t know enough to answer.
After hearing a clinically worded description of the deal — stating that it requires Iran to “freeze its nuclear development program” and admit international inspectors, while reducing some U.S. economic sanctions and continuing negotiations for a six-month period – a full 63 percent of respondents favored the deal.
The survey, which tested 800 voters from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1 — but did not include calls on Thanksgiving and the day after — may bolster the case President Barack Obama and his allies will make to Congress, as they ask the legislature to hold off on placing new sanctions on Iran as the administration seeks to make the Iran deal work.
There are also indications that the argument over Iran is far from over: While many voters are “somewhat” inclined to back the deal or find Obama’s arguments “fairly convincing,” there is not yet a majority solidly set behind the administration’s position.
Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who conducted the survey, said the straightforward takeaway is that voters “clearly want to give negotiations a chance to work if there is a possibility negotiations can prevent Iran from acquiring a weapon without a military strike.”
“Americans do not want to get involved in another war in the Middle East,” Garin said. “The public is reassured by the fact that most sanctions remain in place and Iran has agreed to intrusive inspections, and Americans understand tougher sanctions can be imposed if and when negotiations for a permanent resolution do not succeed.”
Offered a choice between two congressional approaches to the Iran deal, 68 percent of voters said they would prefer to see Congress “closely monitor” the implementation without taking “any action that would block the agreement.” Twenty-one percent of voters said Congress should pass new Iran sanctions “even if doing so would break the agreement … or might jeopardize the negotiations.”
In a sign of the country’s continuing war weariness, only 27 percent of respondents said they would take a favorable view of a lawmaker who backed “military action against Iran to destroy its nuclear development program.” Fifty-two percent said they would take a somewhat unfavorable or strongly unfavorable view of such a position.
And two thirds of respondents said they would prefer a member of Congress who “wants to give the new agreement and further negotiations a chance,” as opposed to 25 percent who’d rather support a lawmaker who wants to hand down new sanctions at the risk of undermining negotiations.
That divide isn’t merely a partisan one: Obama’s Iran deal has drawn flak from Democrats such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, as well as an array of leading Republicans, who have voiced concern that Iran is merely playing for time with the deal and has no real intention of abandoning its quest of atomic weapons.
Garin maintained: “The clear majority of voters do not want Congress to impose more sanctions at this point if doing so might jeopardize the agreement and ongoing negotiations.”
AUC president Brad Woodhouse said the group would be briefing congressional Democrats and “other interested parties” on the Iran poll in the coming days.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify that the poll did not test voters on Thursday and Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday.