Commentary Magazine


Contentions

A Telling Poll

A friend sent on an interesting poll by McLaughlin & Associates on a number of key foreign policy issues. It can be viewed in its entirety here. Several items on terrorism, Iran, and Israel stand out.

First, while “terrorism” is identified as the greatest threat to the U.S. only 15% give that answer. The next highest (excluding “don’t know”) is 7% as “ourselves.” Sigh. (But perhaps 7% of those polled thinking we’re the biggest threat is indeed a threat.) On Iran, overwhelming percentages of respondents across both parties think “Iran supplying a nuclear umbrella for terrorists” is a very serious or somewhat serious threat while a high (but smaller) percentage thinks the U.S. would not be safe with a nuclear-armed Iran. 79% think Iran would give nuclear weapons to terrorists to attack an American city.

On Israel, Bibi Netanyahu’s approval ratings are not stellar but still more positive than not, regardless of the respondent’s political party. And  87% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats think the U.S. should be concerned with Israel’s security. Perhaps the most interesting response comes to this question: “Given that Iran has publicly threatened to annihilate Israel, would Israel be justified in attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities?” 67% of Republicans, 47% of Democrats and 57% of Independents answer “yes.” That’s a rather startling and wide gap according to party identification, far wider than the gap regarding the generic “should we care about Israel’s security” query.

But Americans are a skeptical lot, it seems. Asked “Do you think that if the Palestinians were given their own state in the West Bank and Gaza they would live peacefully with Israel or continue their campaign of terror to destroy Israel?” only 18% choose “live peacefully” (with only 7% of Republicans choosing “live peacefully” over “destroy Israel” while the Democrats’ split was far closer, 25-47%).

The bottom line: Americans are “not naive,” as the president likes to say, about Iran and are very supportive of Israel. As to the former, given the level of concern about an attack on a U.S. city, a policy that seemed to tolerate Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would be very unpopular. Finally, the difference along party lines with regard to Israel is noteworthy and troubling (at least to those who believe a robust relationship between the two countries is in their mutual interests), especially at a time when Democrats dominate both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.