For those tuning into the myriad Republican presidential debates over the past few months, they may have been surprised to learn that many GOP candidates believe a military intervention in Iran could be likely.
Yet despite the cheers the candidates received for taking hawkish foreign policy stances with Iran, a recent Rasmussen poll finds that only 35 percent of Americans favor using military force if sanctions fail to prevent Iran from developing their nuclear capabilities.
This finding is especially interesting given that 81 percent of Americans think it is either somewhat or very likely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon in the near future, and that 63 percent of Americans do not believe it is very or at all likely that stiff economic sanctions will effectively force Iran to disband its nuclear program.
Although 76 percent of Americans believe that Iran is a serious national security threat to the United States, only 35 percent are ready to favor military intervention. This means that even though most Americans believe it's quite likely Iran will develop a nuclear weapon and that economic sanctions will fail to work, they aren't willing for Americans to engage in another military intervention. This suggests that Americans may recognize there are other means to promote peace, prosperity, and American defense, besides intervening militarily.
The Q3 2011 Reason-Rupe poll can illuminate this hesitance among a majority of Americans to engage in another war. First, 61 percent believe the U.S. uses its military force in foreign conflicts too often. Furthermore, 62 percent are not convinced that the war in Iraq has been worth it, while 65 percent do not believe that keeping troops in Afghanistan until 2014 will make the U.S. any safer.
Americans are drained from the costs of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and right now they don't seem willing to engage in another conflict. Americans may be willing to consider other means to promote national defense, besides military intervention and economic sanctions. Perhaps keeping the military strong here at home and promoting free trade abroad could be a consideration.
1,000 Likely Voters
Conducted January 17-18, 2012
How likely is it that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon in the near future?
42% Very likely
39% Somewhat likely
7% Not very likely
2% Not at all likely
10% Not sure
How likely is it that stiff economic sanctions against Iran will force Iran to disband its nuclear program?
6% Very likely
21% Somewhat likely
46% Not very likely
17% Not at all likely
10% Not sure
Suppose that diplomatic efforts fail to prevent Iran from continuing to develop its nuclear capabilities. Should the United States use military force to prevent Iranfrom developing nuclear weapons?
27% Not sure
How serious a national security threat is Iran to the United States?
33% Very serious
43% Somewhat serious
16% Not very serious
2% Not at all serious
6% Not sure
NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence