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As the United States has removed itself from one extended military conflict in the Middle East – in Iraq – another one possibly looms on the horizon, brought on by Iran’s suspected nuclear program and, among other things, Israel’s desire to abolish it. The U.S. has a tricky and nuanced road to navigate, made only more complicated by Israel’s role, the rising price of oil, and the presidential election in November. When Americans were asked about various items related to the potential conflict with Iran, the responses reflect the complicated nature of the issue. Seven in ten Americans agree that Iran’s nuclear capabilities pose a threat to the United States (72%), yet what action the United States should take in response is less clear.
Over half of U.S. adults say that if Israel takes action against Iran’s nuclear program that the U.S. should support Israel (56%), yet fewer than half of Americans say Israel should take action to destroy Iran’s nuclear program (45%) and fewer believe that the U.S. should take this action themselves.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,451 adults surveyed online between March 12 and 19, 2012 by Harris Interactive .
While a majority of all U.S. adults agree that Iran’s nuclear capabilities pose a threat to the United States this belief is stronger among older generations; 77%-79% of Baby Boomers (ages 48-66) and Matures (ages 67+) agree, compared to 63%-71% of Echo Boomers (ages 18-35) and Gen X (ages 36-47) who do. The older generations are in similar agreement about the U.S. supporting Israel if Israel takes action against Iran’s nuclear program: over three in five Baby Boomers (63%) and Matures (68%) say the U.S. should support Israel, yet just 55% of Gen X and 45% of Echo Boomers respectively say the same. There is a less strong opinion on whether Israel should take military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Approximately half (47%-51%) of Gen X, Baby Boomers and Matures say Israel should, although just 38% of Echo Boomers agree. If Americans are uncertain about how Israel should act, they are even more uncertain about what the U.S. should do:
Military engagements and involvement with Israel are usually politically charged issues, but that sense is even more escalated in an election year. Republicans, Democrats and Independents show a different mind when considering Iran’s nuclear situation:
Taking a more philosophical look, interestingly a majority of Americans — in all political parties — disagree that Iran has the right to continue working on its nuclear program (65%-71% of Republicans, Democrats and Independents say this).
Although most reports indicate that neither Israel nor the U.S. is likely to take immediate military action against Iran – the results of which could be enormous and costly — the continued discussion and analysis on what each country should do might have consequences of its own, particularly if Iran sees the ongoing discussion as provocation unto itself. It will be interesting to see how President Obama handles the discussions and decisions moving forward — it seems unlikely that he would want to enter into a new military engagement, yet the potential threat from Iran is felt by Americans, the pro-Israel lobby is strong, and the U.S. demand for oil continues to be pervasive.
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 19, 2012 among 2,451 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The Harris Poll #39, April 10, 2012
By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher, Harris Interactive
Image Courtesey of Steve Rhodes