Iran: Key Data Points from the Pew Research Center
There is almost universal opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons among 21 nations surveyed in March-April 2012.
Seven-in-ten Americans see Iran’s nuclear program as a major threat to the well-being of the U.S., putting it on a par with perceived dangers posed by Islamic extremist groups and North Korea’s nuclear program, according to our survey conducted Apr. 30-May 13, 2012.
A separate survey was done of American foreign affairs experts. The public’s concern about the nuclear threat posed by Iran was shared by retired military officers and business and trade leaders, but less so by government officials, scholars and members of the news media.
A majority of Americans favored taking a hard line with Iran over its nuclear program, saying that was more important than avoiding a military conflict, according to an Oct. 2012 survey.
There are notable partisan and ideological differences on this issue. Eight-in-ten Republicans favor the use of force if necessary to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons compared to 62% of Democrats and 59% of independents. Among conservative Republicans, 87% say it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons even if it means taking military action compared to 53% of liberal Democrats.
Globally, the U.S. public is the strongest supporter of using military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons according to a March-April 2012 survey.
Among those who said they opposed Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Americans are the most willing to take military action if necessary while the British and Germans lean toward the use of force. The French are divided on the question, and the Russians and Chinese show no support for a military strike and lean toward accepting a nuclear Iran. These countries constitute the so-called “P5+1″ group — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — who have engaged in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
There is more support around the world for using economic sanctions as the means to dissuade Iran from continuing its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
Among those who oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, Americans and citizens of their European negotiating partners in the talks with Iran strongly support tougher international economic measures against Tehran to try to stop its nuclear program. However, the Chinese and Russians do not agree with their negotiating counterparts on economic sanctions. Just 46% of Russians who oppose the Iranian nuclear program back new sanctions, down from 67% in 2010. In China, 38% favor more sanctions, a drop of 20 points in the last two years.
Overall opinions of Iran are largely negative across much of the world, according to our spring 2012 survey.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose last term ends this year, received largely negative views in most of the predominantly Muslim nations we surveyed.
Pakistan is a major exception among these nations, with about half (47%) expressing a favorable opinion of Ahmadinejad, while just 6% see him unfavorably (47% do not offer an opinion). In Lebanon, opinions of the Iranian leader split along religious lines with 95% of Shia seeing him favorably and 92% of Sunnis regarding him unfavorably.
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