Poll: Vast majority opposes attack on Iran

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, September 17, 2010 16:29 EDT
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Two-thirds want US to be neutral in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Americans increasingly accept torture, survey finds

Fewer than one in five Americans would support a US military strike on Iran if the Middle Eastern country continued to pursue its nuclear program in the face of international sanctions, a new poll indicates.

The poll, carried out in June for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, finds 18 percent would support a strike on Iran if the country failed to stop its enrichment of uranium. Forty-one percent would urge further economic sanctions against the country, and 33 percent would support further diplomatic engagement.

When asked what the UN should do, the answers were similar: 21 percent support military action, while 45 percent want more sanctions and 26 percent want negotiations.

“Americans are gravely con­cerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Yet they are also quite concerned about the possible negative impact of a military strike to try and stop it,” the survey’s authors state. “Only a small minority favors the use of military force now, and if all efforts to stop Iran from develop­ing nuclear weapons fail, Americans are essentially evenly divided over whether to conduct a strike.”

The survey (PDF) also finds an electorate that is far less certain of its support of Israel than US political leaders would suggest. By a narrow margin — 50 percent to 47 percent — Americans would oppose the US militarily defending Israel if it were the victim of an unprovoked attack.

If the attack against Israel were retaliation for Israeli military action, even more — 56 percent — would oppose US military intervention, while 38 percent would support it.

Americans “show a rather restrained attitude toward being involved” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the survey states. Fully two-thirds — 66 percent — of those polled want the US to maintain a neutral stance in the conflict, while 28 percent want to see the US take the Israeli side. However, that’s up from 17 percent in 2004.

The desire for neutrality in the conflict comes despite the fact that the poll shows the Palestinian Authority to be almost as unpopular with Americans as Iran or North Korea.


While a majority of Americans continue to oppose the use of torture in warfare, even in the war on terrorism, the survey shows opposition is softening.

“The one exception to the strong support for action against international terrorism is the use of torture to extract information from suspected terrorists, which Americans reject by a margin of 56 percent to 42 percent,” the survey states. “The proportion supporting torture, however, has increased by 6 points since 2008 and by 13 points since the ques­tion was first asked in 2004.”

Another question, asking whether rules for torture should be loosened or kept as they are, found that 58 percent wanted to keep the current rules, while 38 percent wanted to expand the use of torture. As with the earlier question, support for torture increased from 2004, when 70 percent were opposed and 27 percent in favor.

The poll, which was flagged by Matt Duss at ThinkProgress, surveyed 2,596 people between June 11 and June 22 of this year. It has a margin of error of 1.9 percent to 3.3 percent.

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