This report focuses on understanding how the U.S. public is reacting to how the Trump administration is dealing with Iran following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
For this report, we surveyed 1,504 U.S. adults by telephone in January 2020. The surveys were conducted in both English and Spanish over the phone under the direction of Abt Associates. Respondents to this survey were randomly selected via a combination of landline and cell phone random-digit-dial samples. To ensure that the results of this survey reflects a balanced cross section of the nation, the data are weighted to match the U.S. adult population by gender, age, education, race and ethnicity and other categories.
For more information on how we conducted this report, see the methodology section.

By a narrow 48% to 43% margin, Americans view the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani as the right decision. However, a majority (54%) says the Trump administration’s approach toward Iran has increased the likelihood of a major military conflict between the United States and Iran. Just 17% say the administration’s approach has decreased chances for a major conflict with Iran, while 26% say it has not made much difference.

A chart shows majority of Americans say Trump’s approach on Iran has increased likelihood of a ‘major military conflict’In assessing the impact of the administration’s policies on U.S. security, 44% say its approach has made the U.S. less safe, while a larger share says either it has made the U.S. safer (28%) or has not made much difference (26%).

The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 8-13 on cell phones and landlines among 1,504 adults, finds that only about a quarter of Americans (23%) say they have a great deal of trust in what the Trump administration says on Iran, while another 22% say they trust the administration a fair amount. A 53% majority say they have not too much trust (18%) or no trust at all (35%) in the administration’s statements on Iran.

These views are not substantially different from previous evaluations of President Donald Trump’s personal credibility. For example, about a year ago, 58% of the public said they trusted what Trump says less than what previous presidents said; just 26% said they trusted his statements more than those of his predecessors, while 14% said they trusted his statements about the same as past presidents.

A chart shows wide partisan, demographic differences in views of U.S. decision to conduct airstrike that killed Soleimani As with public views of virtually all of Trump’s policies and decisions – and Trump himself – opinions about the U.S. airstrike against Iran and its impact are divided along partisan lines.

However, while Republicans overwhelmingly support the decision to conduct the airstrike that killed Soleimani, they express more mixed views of how Trump’s approach toward Iran has affected prospects for war with Iran and U.S. security. By contrast, Democrats largely express negative views of the impact of the airstrike on both the likelihood for conflict with Iran and on U.S. security.

Only about a third of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (34%) say the administration’s approach toward Iran has decreased the likelihood of a major military clash with Iran; 26% say it has increased likelihood of such a conflict, and 37% say it has not made much difference.

A sizable majority of Democrats (81%) say the administration’s approach toward Iran has increased the likelihood of a major military conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

While 56% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say Trump’s approach toward Iran has made the U.S. safer, a much larger majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (75%) say it has made the U.S. less safe.

However, Republicans and Republican leaners have rallied behind the decision to conduct the airstrike that killed Soleimani: 84% say it was the right decision, while 11% say it was the wrong decision. Democrats view the decision to conduct the airstrike as wrong, but by a less substantial margin (73% to 17%).

Notably, among the roughly one-quarter of Republicans who say the Trump administration’s approach to Iran has raised chances of a military conflict, most (65%) say the decision to conduct the airstrike was the right one. Only about a third of Republicans (31%) who say Trump’s approach has raised the likelihood of a military conflict with Iran say it was the wrong decision.

Women, young adults are especially likely to say Trump’s approach toward Iran could lead to major military conflict with Iran

A chart shows nearly two-thirds of young adults say Trump’s approach on Iran has raised chances of major conflictThere are sizable age and gender differences in views of the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani.

Women are nearly 20 percentage points less likely than men to say the decision to conduct the airstrike was the right one (37% vs. 58%). And adults under 30 are the only age group in which significantly more view the airstrike as wrong (51%) than right (40%).

These differences extend to views of the Trump administration’s overall approach toward Iran. A majority of women (62%) say the administration’s approach to Iran has increased the likelihood of a major military conflict; about half of men (47%) say the same.

While majorities of adults ages 18 to 29 (65%) and 30 to 49 (61%) say the administration’s approach has raised the likelihood of a major conflict with Iran, a smaller share of those ages 50 and older (46%) express this view.

Few Americans have great deal of trust in what Trump administration says about the situation in Iran

Just a third of Republican-leaning independents have a great deal of trust in what administration says on IranOverall, more Americans say they have little or no trust in what the Trump administration says about the situation in Iran (53%) than say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust (45%) in the administration’s statements.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents express much greater trust than Democrats and Democratic leaners in the Trump administration’s statements on Iran. But there are wide differences in trust in the administration between those who identify as Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party.

Among Republican identifiers, 57% have a great deal of trust in what the administration says on Iran; among Republican-leaning independents, who constitute about a third of Republicans and Republican leaners, just 33% have a great deal of trust in the administration’s statements on Iran.

Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents both are largely distrustful of the administration’s statements on Iran; comparable majorities of each (62% and 57%, respectively) say they have no trust at all in what the administration says about the situation in Iran.

Among independents overall, including those who do not lean toward either party, 60% say they have little or no trust in what the Trump administration says about Iran, including 36% who have no trust in their statements. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) have at least a fair amount of trust in the administration’s statements on the situation in Iran. (For more on political independents, see “Political Independents: Who They Are, What They Think.”)