Trump’s flirtation with war with Iran did not poll well

If Donald Trump had hoped that his killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani would be a big boost for his popularity by generating jingoistic sentiment and taking attention away from his impeachment troubles, then he will be disappointed.

A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless.”

Americans were divided on the wisdom of the drone strike at the Baghdad airport last week that killed Soleimani and others: 42% supported it, 33% opposed it; 25% said they didn’t know what to think. Republicans were much more supportive than Democrats; independents were almost evenly split.

But there was overwhelming agreement – in each case by more than 6-1 – that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East (69%), that there would be terrorist attacks on the American homeland (63%), and that the United States and Iran would go to war with each other (62%).

By 52%-8%, those polled said the attack made it more likely that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.

That said, Americans by 55%-24% believe the attack that took his life has made the United States less safe, rejecting a fundamental argument the Trump administration has made. Just one in 10 said it had made the U.S. “much more safe;” three times as many said it had made the nation “much less safe.”

Some saw a domestic political motive behind the attack. By 47%-39%, those surveyed said Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani in an attempt to divert the focus from his impeachment. There was little support for the idea of delaying the Senate impeachment trial until the crisis with Iran was resolved; that was opposed by 55%-26%.

That said, the survey found a receptive landscape for Congress to act. A double-digit majority, 53%-33%, endorsed congressional action that would limit Trump’s ability to order military strikes or declare war without legislative approval.

This is encouraging. If the support had been high, you can be certain that Trump would have done something even more reckless the next time he needed a popularity boost.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a margin of 224-194 limiting Trump’s ability to go to war with Iran. The resolution is not binding but the move, along with lackluster polling support for his action, seems to have stung Trump. Apparently he was surprised that the country did not rally round him, suggesting that that goal was possibly part of his calculation in ordering that strike.

Appearing on CNN, [New York Times reporter Maggie] Haberman was asked by anchor John Berman if Trump was surprised that the House voted Thursday to limit his ability to go to war with Iran.

“He actually was surprised this was not more of a unifying event for the country, which is what he expected it was going to be,” Haberman responded. “Something more along the lines of what you saw around the Iraq War lead-up.”

This does not mean that Trump will not do something reckless of course. He most certainly will. But it will be due to his inherent ignorance, stupidity, and irrationality, not out of any political calculation.


  1. Margaret E. Davidson says

    His recklessness cost the lives of all the innocent people on Flight 752. It may not have been a direct attack by American forces but nerves and twitchy trigger fingers were probably the cause.

  2. consciousness razor says

    That said, the survey found a receptive landscape for Congress to act. A double-digit majority, 53%-33%, endorsed congressional action that would limit Trump’s ability to order military strikes or declare war without legislative approval.

    I don’t know how I would’ve responded. I mean, the Constitution clearly says Congress (and not the president) is already the one with the power to declare war. And the notional “precedent” which has been set by our numerous unconstitutional military adventures in recent history does not change that fact in the slightest. So I think that means they have to do precisely nothing — sounds perfect for a bunch of do-nothings. And of course, whenever they deal with the budget again, they do more of that same nothing, if they want to ensure that they’re not “accidentally” funding a war they never approved, because that would obviously be a stupid fucking thing to do. But I doubt this was one of the options in the survey.

  3. Sam N says

    By 52%-8%, those polled said the attack made it more likely that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.

    No, Iran was always going to get nuclear weapons. Obama’s horrendous foreign policy assured it when he provided support for Libya’s insurrection (the first reason I always cite as to why I genuinely despised Hillary Clinton, all you boosters that still exist and think she would have made a fine president). Yet, the USA never strikes North Korea. Every nation on Earth has learned by now, the only way you can be safe from the US making war on you is to have a nuclear deterrent. Of course Iran will get nuclear weapons, the regime would be insane not to, given our bellicosity.

  4. bmiller says

    Thanks, Sam for reminding us of the reality of the Peace Prize President (snorgh). I never understood the love for the wishy washy corporate tool. I guess he is sleek and well spoken and not a raving senile narcissistic loon, but many of his policies were outright terrible. m

    Just like when we get too partisan here, we should not forget that many of the biggest nightmares in the world were exacerbated by the sainted Peanut Farmer. Who was a nuclear submarine commander who brought Kissinger and Brzhinski into the White House! Afghanistan. Central America. Iran and the lovely little genocide in East Timor. But boy, he is a Good Christian!

  5. file thirteen says

    The horrible shooting down of flight 752 shows that the Iranian military matches Trump for stupidity and recklessness. If it weren’t for that, you might be able to say the signs were encouraging. The only slightly less black “positive” lining is that there is no out-and-out war yet.

    The assassination of Soleimani seemed to be so deliberately provocative as to be an engineered ploy towards war… and yet to my surprise, Trump and the US appear to have backed off. Although the bloodless Iranian “retaliation” provided a good opportunity to do that, I was expecting the opposite, for it to be hyped up into an excuse for more conflict.

    What changed? Were survey results suggesting that a war would be worse for Trump’s popularity really sufficient to rein him in? Since when has anything managed that?

    Like Sam N says, Iran would be mad not to pursue nuclear weapons now. But it’s a horrifying prospect of having them in the hands of a military that can shoot down a civilian plane.

  6. file thirteen says

    @Holms #6

    If you like. I see the shooting of a civilian plane that’s just taken off from one of your (country’s) own airports as an egregious error -- not a worse result, the shooting of any civilian plane is just as horrific, but to make an error like that is borderline unhinged. But on reflection, the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons doesn’t seem any worse than Israel having nuclear weapons, and Israel haven’t used them… yet.

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