Americans on the Iran Nuclear Issue

Author: 
Author data: 
Shibley Telhami
Publication Date: 
March 2015
Description: 
Program for Public Consultation/Anwar Sadat Chair
Project: 
Nuclear Past, Present and Future Project
Security Cooperation with Iran: Challenges and Opportunities
The Program for Public Consultation
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds
Iran has been engaged in tense negotiations with theUnited States and five other nations (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany), on a deal that would impose limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some of the international sanctions on Iran. Within the United States, and especially in Congress, there has been an intense debate about these negotiations, especially on the question of whether the US should accept a deal that would allow Iran a limited uranium enrichment program. A limited uranium enrichment program would allow Iran to provide fuel for its nuclear energy program, but it could also move Iran a step closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon. In this survey a representative sample of Americans were presented the two primary options that have dominated this debate: • For the US to continue to pursue an agreement that would accept some enrichment by Iran, but with substantial limits that would preclude Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and intrusive inspections to ensure those limits are met, in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions. • For the US to not accept any Iranian enrichment. Instead, the US would continue trying to get other nations to impose new economic sanctions in an effort to persuade Iran to cease enrichment completely. Respondents were first given a briefing on the broader issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, presented the two primary options, and asked to evaluate strongly stated arguments for and against each one. The briefings and the arguments were vetted and refined with Congressional staffers from both parties and other experts. Finally respondents were asked to make their recommendation. The key finding was: •While majorities found arguments for both options at least somewhat convincing, when asked to make their final recommendation, a clear majority of 61% recommended making a deal with Iran that would include a limited enrichment capacity for Iran. This included 61% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 54% of independents. The alternative of increasing sanctions in an effort to get Iran to stop all uranium enrichment was endorsed by 36%. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become prominent in the debate surrounding Iran’s nuclear program as he has strongly opposed a deal that allows Iran to enrich. •When presented the controversy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in opposition to making a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, half of respondents thought that the speech was inappropriate, while just under half thought it was appropriate. Partisan differences were strong with two thirds of Democrats and fifty- five percent of Independents saying it was not appropriate and two thirds of Republicans saying it was appropriate. Half of Democrats and Independents thought that it is appropriate for members of Congress not to attend the speech, while only 29% of Republicans agreed. •Views of Netanyahu have become more partisan since polling in November 2014. While in earlier polling more Democrats and independents had a favorable view than a negative view, now larger numbers have a negative view. Republicans continue to be predominantly positive.