Americans Favor Deal With Iran by 2-1; Relations With Israel Are Highly Politicized

PHOTO: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a meeting with a group of environmental officials and activists at his residence in Tehran, Iran, March 8, 2015.PlayOffice of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP Photo
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Americans by a 2-1 margin favor an agreement with Iran over its nuclear development program, even while broadly questioning whether a deal would, in fact, prevent Tehran from producing nuclear weapons.

A new national ABC News/Washington Post poll also finds sharply politicized views of U.S.-Israel relations, which have been strained by the two allies’ dispute over the advisability of an agreement with Iran.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

In a result that supports the Obama administration’s position in the face of Republican and Israeli criticisms alike, Americans by 59-31 percent back a plan to lift major economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions making it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons.

The finding in the survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, is in concert with longstanding preferences for diplomatic rather than military solutions to international conflicts, when possible. It comes as Secretary of State John Kerry seeks a framework for an agreement, working with negotiators from Iran, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Their self-imposed deadline was today.

While still a clear majority, support for a deal has slipped slightly from 64 percent in November 2013. It comes even though 59 percent are not particularly confident that such an agreement would achieve its goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear arms. Support endures because even among those who are “not so confident” that an agreement will work, most still think it’s worth a try. Among those who are not at all confident, by contrast, most are opposed.

Support for an agreement peaks at 72 percent among liberals and 68 percent among Democrats, but also draws majorities of moderates and independents, 63 and 60 percent, respectively. Indeed, it’s backed by 46 percent of conservatives and 47 percent of Republicans -- at least as many, in both groups, as oppose it. Forty-seven GOP U.S. senators wrote a letter to Tehran earlier this month opposing a deal, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation from Republican leaders to deliver an address to Congress criticizing the approach.

ISRAEL -- The poll finds both Obama and Netanyahu underwater in their handling of U.S.-Israel relations. Just 38 percent approve of Obama’s handling of relations with Israel, and 37 percent approve of Netanyahu’s work on relations with the United States. Fifty and 44 percent, respectively, disapprove.

There’s vast partisanship in these views, marking the sharply politicized nature of current relations between the two longtime allies. Obama’s approval for handling relations with Israel ranges from 66 percent among Democrats to 34 percent of independents and a mere 8 percent of Republicans. Opinions on Netanyahu run the other way; 59 percent of Republicans approve of his handling of U.S. relations, vs. 37 percent of independents and just 21 percent of Democrats.

Lastly, the poll finds essentially a split decision on the establishment of a Palestinian state, a cornerstone of U.S. policy that Netanyahu appeared to call into question during his recent re-election campaign. While many are undecided, 39 percent support establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while 36 percent are opposed. That’s backed off from 58-22 percent in a Gallup poll in June 2003, as the Bush administration pushed its “Roadmap for Peace.”

Rather than partisanship, ideology is the stronger factor in attitudes on a Palestinian state. Support ranges from 58 percent among liberals to 41 percent of moderates, then drops to 30 percent of “somewhat” conservative Americans -- and just 18 percent of those who are “very” conservative. Strikingly, there were no such divisions in 2003.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone March 26-29, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.