Exclusive: Americans say Soleimani's killing made US less safe, Trump 'reckless' on Iran




  • In Politics
  • 2020-01-09 11:41:11Z
  • By USA TODAY
Exclusive: Americans say Soleimani\
Exclusive: Americans say Soleimani\'s killing made US less safe, Trump \'reckless\' on Iran  

Americans by more than 2-1 say the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani has made the United States less safe, a nationwide USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds, amid broad concerns about the potential consequences ahead.

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.

The online survey of 1,005 adults, taken Tuesday and Wednesday, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The Iranian rocket attack on U.S. bases in Iraq took place near the end of the time the poll was in the field. The survey was completed before President Trump addressed the nation from the White House Wednesday.

Fact check: Trump discusses escalation of tensions with Iran in televised speech

Among the few favorable findings for Trump in the poll was this: A 53% majority agreed that killing Soleimani "shows Iran that the U.S. won't be pushed around."

Soleimani, a 62-year-old Iranian general who was seen as one of the country's most powerful figures, led Iran's Quds Force, which is part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was designated as a terrorist organization in 2019 by the Trump administration. The United States blames Soleimani for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. service member deaths in Iraq and thousands of others in the region.

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."

Nearly a third of Republicans, who typically support the president, said it had made the nation 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%.

The Trump administration has faced protests from congressional Democrats that the attack was undertaken without consultation with congressional leaders, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday announced the Democratic-controlled House would vote Thursday to require Trump to wind down military action against Iran within 30 days unless Congress approved. The measure is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

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. Supporters included 78% of Democrats, 26% of Republicans and 54% of independents.

Americans are paying attention. Nine of 10 were at least slightly aware of the drone strike; two-thirds were very or somewhat familiar with it.

"The conflict with Iran is front and center in most Americans' minds," said Clifford Young, president of U.S. Ipsos Public Affairs. "However Ipsos's survey for USA TODAY finds that the public is divided on the Soleimani killing. The data suggests that support for the administration's actions come down to if people view Soleimani as a terrorist figure, which is fair game, or a government official, which is off limits."

Nearly two-thirds, 64%, approved of the United States killing leaders of terrorist organizations. That dropped to 50% support for the killing of foreign military officers with ties to terror groups, and to 27% support for the killing of military officers of opposing governments. Just 18% supported killing elected officials of opposing governments.

Those surveyed overwhelming opposed U.S. air strikes on Iranian targets that included cultural and world heritage sites, a threat Trump made and then walked back. One situation did prompt strong support for U.S. air strikes: If Iran were to kill a major U.S. officer in the Middle East, those surveyed by 55%-21% would support air strikes on Iranian military targets.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Killing Soleimani made US less safe, Trump reckless on Iran: poll

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