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.