Americans by more than 2-1 say the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has made the United States less safe, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll has found.
A majority of those surveyed (52%-34%) called President Donald Trump’s behaviour 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.
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 (62%).
And 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 on Tuesday and Wednesday, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Among the few favourable 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.”
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.
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.
Nearly two-thirds, 64%, approved of the United States killing leaders of terrorist organisations. 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. airstrikes 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. airstrikes: If Iran were to kill a major U.S. officer in the Middle East, those surveyed by 55%-21% would support airstrikes on Iranian military targets.
“The conflict with Iran is front and centre 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.”