In March 2015, after Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the US Congress to criticize an Obama-built Iran deal, Americans rose to defend their president against foreign criticism. For example, a poll taken by the Washington Post-ABC News near the end of March showed that Americans supported a nuclear deal with Iran by a nearly 2 to 1 margin (Scott Clement and Peyton M. Craighill, “Poll: Clear majority supports nuclear deal with Iran”, Washington Post, March 30, 2015).
A month later, a Quinnipiac University poll showed a nearly identical result (“American Voters Back Iran Deal By Wide Margin, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds”, Quinnipiac University, Press release, April 27, 2015). 58 per cent of Americans polled supported an Iran deal in April versus 59 per cent a month earlier.
By July 17, 2015, days after a ‘deal’ with Iran had been announced, American support for the deal had begun to erode. The margin in favour of a deal was no longer ‘nearly 2 to 1’. American support had fallen to just 43 per cent (“Poll: Plurality support nuke deal with Iran — yet 59% say they’re not confident it’ll stop an Iranian bomb”, hotair, July 17, 2015).
However, while headlines about American support for a deal with Iran focused exclusively on what per cent of Americans supported a deal, these same news reports nevertheless revealed a darker side of American opinion—which few highlighted. Yes, these polls showed, Americans wanted to see diplomacy instead of war (hence, the support for a diplomatic ‘deal’). But these polls also revealed that this support for ‘diplomacy’ never translated into positive feelings about the outcome of such diplomacy.
For example, in the March Washington Post-ABC News poll (above), 59 per cent of Americans may have supported a deal. But almost the same per cent of Americans (nearly 6 in 10) didn’t feel confident that a deal would actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear capability (ibid).
The month before, a Gallup poll revealed that 77 per cent of Americans said the development of nuclear weapons by Iran would be a ‘critical threat’ to the US (Andrew Dugan, “As Nuclear Talks Progress, 11% in U.S. See Iran Favorably”, Gallup, February 27, 2015). Then the April Quinnipiac poll (above) showed that 62 per cent (up a few points) had little to no confidence that a deal could stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons (ibid).
By July 17th, as news spread that a deal was done, American pessimism over the effectiveness of that deal remained high: a full 60 per cent of Americans didn’t believed this deal would not stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons (hotair, ibid).
Also by July, 56 per cent of Americans saw Iran as an outright enemy of America (Emily Swanson, “AP-GfK Poll: Ahead of nuclear deal, Americans narrowly back diplomatic relations with Iran”, US News and World Reports, July 15, 2015).
The bottom line for these polls is clear. (1) Americans prefer diplomacy over war—and they’re willing to sign a deal with Iran if that deal could stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions; (2) Americans don’t trust Iran to live up to its agreement to curtail its nuclear pursuits (Nick Gass, “Poll finds majority of Americans do not trust Iran to stick to deal”, Politico, July 14, 2015); and (3) Americans see Iran as an enemy of the US.
In another July poll (before the deal was announced), American attitudes towards the deal appeared to be solidifying—against Obama (Greg Corombos, “Poll: 70% of Americans say Iran would use nukes against U.S.”, WND, July 10, 2015). The results of this poll suggest that Obama may not have the American public behind him on this ‘deal’. For example:
-68 per cent of Americans believed Iran will give nuclear weapons to terrorists if it can develop them.
-80 per cent believed Iranian nukes will set off a Middle East arms race.
-70 per cent believed Iran would use nukes against U.S. forces in the region.
-79 percent believed Iran having the bomb will mean their children will be threatened with nuclear war in the years ahead.
Before this deal was signed, some 6 of 10 Americans disapproved of President Obama’s handling of negotiations with Iran (US News, ibid). So far, I have found no polls posted since the deal was signed asking whether Americans approve or disapprove of Obama’s handling of the Iran deal. But I don’t see more Americans approving his handling of this deal.
Commentary and analysis of the details of this deal undercut Obama’s optimism. The deal seems more smoke and mirrors than the road to stopping Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I can’t see that helping him in the polls.
As Obama continues to sell this deal in the face of ongoing criticism, will American public opinion turn against him? More important, if American public opinion turns against Obama, will Democrats in Congress join Republicans to override a President who threatens to veto any Congressional anti-Iran vote?
Stay tuned. Americans still haven't weighed in on this deal.