New Poll on the Iranian Conflict Is Being Spun as Bad for Trump but That Really Isn't the Case

President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Washington, as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, look on. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)


The first poll is out on the spat between the US and Iran over the past couple of weeks that started out with one American killed by an Iranian-controlled militia and resulted, in order, in five militia bases demolished and several dozen of their fighters killed, an attempt to sack the US embassy in Baghdad, Qasem Suleimani spread over a couple of hundred square feet of Bagdad asphalt, a handful of missiles fired at Americans on a couple of Iraqi bases, about three dozen Iranians trampled to death and over 100 innocent bystanders killed by by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. On the surface they aren’t all that great for President Trump but the surface doesn’t really count very much.

I can’t find a copy of the actual poll, so here is the USA Today spin.

A majority of those surveyed, by 52%-34%, called President Donald 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.

Again, absent crosstabs we don’t know what that means or how respondents interpreted an ambiguous word like “reckless.” Why would anyone who thought the President’s actions reckless not know what to think of it? Reckless nearly always implies “bad.’

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%).

I’m not really sure what this means in any political context.

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


A 53% majority agreed that killing Soleimani “shows Iran that the U.S. won’t be pushed around.”

Pretty much validates the Trump brand.

That said, Americans by 55%-24% said they believe the attack that took his life has made the United States less safe, rejecting a fundamental argument the Trump administration has made.

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%.
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.

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.

David Frump said this

Sorry, wrong tweet.

I think, charitably, that is bullsh**. There are two different parts to the survey. One is perception based, those would be the the “pushed around” and “reckless” questions. Neither of those are bad news. The “pushed around” number is solid and the “reckless” number is open to a wide range of interpretations. But I think most folks would agree that no matter how Trump ACTUALLY makes decisions he likes to give the IMPRESSION of making them quickly and impulsively based on intuition. The second part of that is predictive. If November gets here and there are no major attacks on US interests in the Middle East or in the US by Iran, then that perceptual answer is going to swing from “less safe” to “more safe.” But that factor was going to exist no matter what the current perception was. If a majority had answered “more safe” and there was an attack, the number would swing sharply to “less safe.”

The impeachment stuff is just USAToday trying to establish a ‘wag the dog’ narrative and idiots are gonna idiot and I’m shocked they only found 47% of the respondents believed that.

On the whole, the survey, in my view, is a wash. It only becomes bad if we experience a significant terrorist attack in the US because the media will claim every attack forever is because of the Suleimani killing.

More interesting was a focus group report coming out of Pennsylvania. This one is reported on by Axios which also covered another swing state focus group report last month (READ Swing Voters in Key Battleground States Have Settled on Trump as Their Choice). Like that previous focus group report, this one shows that some level of discomfort with or disapproval of Trump does not mean support for Democrats. The headline is Focus group: Pennsylvania swing voters stand with Trump on Iran. These are the key points:

Swing voters here are standing behind President Trump’s decision to launch an airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but if it leads to all-out war they’d question the president’s wisdom and handling of national security.

But that also suggests there’s a potential for a greater political upside for the president on the Iran issue, because he’ll get a lot of credit from these folks if the U.S. and Iran succeed in de-escalating the crisis.

In fact, some indicated they’re slightly more likely to vote for him again in 2020 — even if we did enter a war with Iran.

Others felt that the president has been held back from doing what he really wants to do, and this was an example of him taking charge.

Reading this, you can’t help but think that President Trump was very much in tune with his base and with swing state voters when he declined to strike Iran over the loss of a drone but did strike over the killing of an American contractor.

At the same time there was a strong message that these voters are weary of the Forever War and would turn on Trump if they believed he had actually manipulated the crisis to distract from impeachment.

The Iran situation is not only a potential turning point in our dealings with Iran, it is a significant point of advantage and vulnerability for President Trump. If he continues to go as he has, and refuse to take military action at all Iranian provocations…AND we don’t have another Beirut Marine Barracks incident or Khobar Towers…then this will be a net win for for him so long as he’s perceived as protecting American interests and not being pushed around by Iran.

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