As tensions with Iran escalate on several fronts, most Americans favor military force to stop Tehran from building nuclear weapons if diplomacy fails, a new IBD/TIPP poll shows.
That comes as the Obama ad ministration claims that Iran isn't yet building a bomb and urged the continuation of a "responsible" policy of economic pressure.
Wednesday's car-bomb killing in Tehran of a scientist at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, suspected of being the work of Israel's Mossad spy agency, was the latest in a string of recent events sure to keep Americans thinking about the threat of a nuclear-weaponized Islamist Iran.
In the Jan. 2-8 IBD/TIPP poll, 52% favor U.S. military action to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons if diplomacy and sanctions fail vs. 39% opposed.
With the U.S. strategy against Iran's nuclear program sure to be a major issue in this year's presidential race, 70% of Republicans favor armed action vs. 20% opposed. Independents were in favor, 48%-41%. Democrats were opposed, 50%-42%.
Otherwise, support was broad-based. Majorities of married women, Hispanics and people ages 18 to 44 back military force to stop Iran from getting nukes, along with large pluralities of women overall, blacks and those ages 45 and above.
By 59% to 28%, respondents approved of Israel attacking Iran to prevent it from building nuclear weapons, a development that would constitute an existential threat to the Jewish state. Democrats were 46% to 40% in favor.
Iran as a foreign policy challenge is beginning to boil over. President Obama recently made it significantly tougher for countries to purchase Iranian oil. Last month, Tehran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the major artery for Persian Gulf oil exports, prompting the U.S. military to warn that it would physically intervene to prevent that. Iran's Revolutionary Court on Monday condemned to death a 28-year-old Iranian American who had been visiting his grandparents in August, accusing him of espionage.
The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday confirmed that Iran is enriching uranium to a weapons-grade 20% at a secretly built underground facility. Last weekend, however, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta insisted that Tehran is not yet building an actual bomb.
By 46% to 29%, those polled said the U.S. should intervene militarily if Iran interferes with the passage of oil in the Strait of Hormuz. Two-thirds favor U.S. covert activities to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power if diplomacy and sanctions fail, with 25% opposed. Democrats and independents were both 61% in favor of such action.
Covert operations to foment regime change got the support of 49% vs. 41% opposed. But a plurality of independents and Democrats oppose this.
The public also believes, by 47%-25%, that Iran has become a bolder and bigger threat than ever under Obama. Some 34% "strongly agree." Remarkably, Democrats were split: 34% say Iran is a worse danger than ever under this Democratic president, while 33% disagree.