The Israel Project released a poll this afternoon finding that 55 percent of Americans would approve of the “United States and its allies making targeted conventional military strikes against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities” – a surprisingly high number considering the opposition generated by the war in Iraq.
At a press conference announcing the findings – which technically were 33 percent strongly approving and an additional 22 percent somewhat approving – pollster Frank Luntz suggested that the reason was simply that “Iran scares people.”
“He is the most frightening world leader,” said Luntz of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Americans are disturbed by his threats.
An Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities is less popular among Americans, with only 43 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving. But if economic and diplomatic sanctions fail and Iran acquires nuclear capability, the approval number rises to 63 percent.
Still, there was a great deal of support for diplomacy, with 62 percent saying an “opportunity for a diplomatic solution still exists.”
Luntz also presented research on the language of the presidential candidates on Iran and Israel. Using a technique he is frequently seen utilizing on cable television news channels, focus groups turn a dial in a positive or negative direction to signal their opinion on the words being said by the candidate.
He showed the groups of voters, half leaning Republican and half leaning Democrat, portions of the candidates’ speeches at this year’s AIPAC policy conference. He noted that voters partcularly like when candidates present specific details on the Iranian threat, as Barack Obama did in his speech. He said that Hillary Clinton’s strong statement of “no nuclear weapons for Iran” received over 90 percent approval from both sides of the aisle – something he had never seen before. And he said John McCain gets significantly lower numbers from Democrats than Republicans when he talks about Iran because “he reminds them of George W. Bush.”
The survey of 800 likely voters was conducted by telephone in late July by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.