Following on the heels of a USAToday/Ipsos poll that came out January 9th, ABC News/Ipsos has another, newer poll up regarding Americans attitudes towards Donald Trump’s recent military actions against Iran that, viewed in a historical context, is rather extraordinary.
American forces acting at the direction of Donald Trump assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on January 3rd. As many Americans will forever recall, as they sat aghast in front of their television sets, Iran “retaliated” on January 8 by launching ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq. It was not until the next day that reporting suggested that Iran deliberately “missed” US troops with a view towards avoiding a wider war; this has been confirmed now by the Iraqis who revealed they were informed in advance of the attacks and immediately advised the U.S. As a result, U.S. troops were moved to secure bunkers at the bases hours before the Iranian missiles were actually launched.
The initial January 9 poll was unique because it revealed that, even in the face of a hostile nation launching missiles at us (the sample taken for that poll included some respondents who would have witnessed Iran’s “retaliation,” but not the news that they Iran deliberately acted to avoid inflicting casualties on the U.S.), a bare plurality of Americans approved of Trump’s military action even then. Again, as noted here, that poll was taken after the Administration had trotted out Mike Pompeo to assure Americans that Qasem Soleimani was one of the most evil human beings ever to walk the earth, and that he had planned innumerable “imminent” terror attacks that this air strike had heroically foiled in the nick of time.
What that poll showed was that Americans, by and large didn’t buy it. By a 2-1 margin they felt that Trump had made us less safe. And a clear majority also believed he was “wagging the dog,” i.e., that he launched the strikes to distract from his impeachment.
In historical terms, that is extraordinary. In my lifetime there has never been a military action launched by the U.S. that did not immediately garner clear approval by the general population, even across both parties. In this instance, however, a bare plurality of Americans initially approved this president’s action in killing Soleimani, with a relatively huge number undecided.
Now that the dust has settled, here are the numbers from the new poll:
Fifty-six percent said they disapprove of Trump’s actions toward Iran, compared to 43 percent who approve, according to the ABC News/Ipsos poll released early Sunday.
Fifty-two percent of respondents also said the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq earlier this month has made the U.S. less safe. One-quarter said the U.S. is more safe and 22 percent said the drone strike hasn’t had much effect one way or the other.
This poll shows approval of Trump’s action towards Iran divided squarely by party lines, with almost equivalent percentages from the GOP and the Democratic party registering their approval, and disapproval, respectively. That in itself is not surprising since reflects the polarization in the country (with which everyone is quite familiar). What appears to be unique are the overall approval/disapproval numbers for this military action by this president.
For comparison, from Gallup, here are historical numbers reflecting Americans’ approval/disapproval of military interventions, taken by prior administrations (the 2017 Tomahawk missile strike by this administration against Syria in response to Syrian chemical attacks on civilians is included as well):
Syria 2017 Apr 7-8 50 41 Iraq and Syria 2014 Sep 20-21 60 31 Libya 2011 Mar 21 47 37 Iraq 2003 Mar 20 76 20 Afghanistan 2001 Oct 7 90 5 Kosovo/The Balkans 1999 Apr 30-May 2 51 45 Afghanistan and Sudan 1998 Aug 20 66 19 Haiti 1994 Sep 23-25 54 45 Somalia 1993 Jun 18-21 65 23 Iraq 1993 Jan 13 83 9 Libya 1986 Apr 17-18 71 21 Grenada 1983 Oct 26-27 53 34
All of the above reflect clear majority approval by the American public of an administration’s military actions in their immediate aftermath.
Again, the disapproval/approval ratio applicable to Trump’s handling of Iran at this time reveals a 13 point margin of disapproval. Here are ABC News/IPSOS’ conclusions as to what that means.
Washington, DC, January 12th, 2020 – New public opinion data from ABC News and Ipsos shows that the American public continues to disapprove of President Trump’s handing of the situation with Iran and feel it has made the country less safe, even after both sides appear to have stepped back from the conflict.
This suggests that despite Iran appearing to deescalate after a rocket strike on U.S. bases in Iraq caused no fatalities, this has not been a “win” for the President, nor has the American public’s view on the crisis softened.
Again, this poll comes after vice-president Pence lied hysterically about Iran’s non-existent connection to 9/11, and after Pompeo and Trump upped the lying ante to suggest that four embassies were under imminent threat from Iran, an assertion that our hapless Secretary of Defense has all but acknowledged was wholly contrived. None of their lies seem to have made much of an impression on the American public.
With all the demonization of Iran that the Republican Party has tried to churn up over the past decade, even with a drone strike killing an alleged “imminent threat” to our safety, Americans by a very large margin are not buying Trump’s story on Iran. They do not believe Trump’s action made them any safer—in fact, quite the reverse, by a 2-1 margin Americans believe Trump has made them less safe. This continues to be true even though the attack on Soleimani has had (thus far) no serious repercussions on U.S. troops.
There may be multiple explanations for these results, and the polling questions from prior historical military actions may have been slightly different, but in this case the most likely reason for the disparity is probably the most obvious one—even on the most hair-trigger, hot button issue where Americans have historically leaped to support their president—here, military conflict with a proven enemy–Americans do not trust what comes out of Trump’s mouth, or what anyone in his administration says.
Period. End of story.