President Obama has railed against congressional Republicans for opposing his administration’s nuclear deal with Iran to score partisan points, but the president has a bigger problem: The American public generally opposes it, too.
Polling since the agreement was announced July 14 has consistently shown more people opposing the accord than supporting it. The latest poll, a survey of New York City voters released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University, showed respondents in the liberal city were opposed to the agreement by 43 percent to 36 percent.
New York City, which has a large Jewish population, is the home base of Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the most prominent Democratic opponent of the Iran deal. The Quinnipiac survey found that Jewish voters in New York oppose the pact by 53 percent to 33 percent.
“New York City voters agree with Sen. Charles Schumer in his opposition to the proposed Iran deal,” said Quinnipiac University Poll assistant director Maurice Carroll.
Mr. Schumer said Tuesday that his decision last week to come out against the deal was “a vote of conscience,” although the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat did not sound as if he would lobby his fellow Democrats aggressively to follow his lead.
“Certainly, I’m going to try to persuade my colleagues that my viewpoint is right, but anyone who thinks you can force somebody to vote with you in the Senate doesn’t understand the Senate,” he told reporters. “This is a vote of conscience. It was a vote of conscience for me. It will be a vote of conscience for my colleagues.”
With lawmakers back home in their districts for the congressional August break, voters have expressed deep and rising skepticism about the accord, which would lift economic sanctions against Iran in return for new limits and international monitoring of its nuclear program. A large percentage of the public haven’t made up their minds about the agreement, which Iran reached with the U.S. and five international negotiating partners.
A Monmouth University poll released Monday found that 32 percent of respondents think lawmakers should reject the deal, while 27 percent say they should approve it. Only 41 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents in the poll favored congressional approval.
In an especially telling finding, the survey found that 41 percent of those surveyed said the Islamic regime in Tehran got the better of the agreement, compared with 14 percent who said the U.S. benefited more.
“The public is not convinced that Congress should reject the plan, but they can’t shake their nagging doubts that Iran has the upper hand here,” said Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray.
Those findings mirror other polls conducted since the agreement was announced. A CBS News poll taken July 29 through Aug. 2 found that 33 percent disapproved of the accord, 20 percent approved, and 47 percent said they didn’t know enough about it or offered no opinion.
A CNN/ORC survey taken July 22-25 showed that 52 percent believe Congress should reject the deal, and 44 percent said lawmakers should approve it. A Pew Research Center poll taken the week after the agreement was announced found 45 percent opposed, 33 percent in favor and 22 percent unsure.
Of the two major surveys that have showed more public support for the deal, one was taken immediately after the agreement was announced. The ABC/Washington Post poll found 56 percent in favor of the agreement and 37 percent opposed.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted July 26-30 showed 35 percent of respondents in favor, 32 percent opposed and 32 percent unsure. But the same survey in June found only 17 percent against an accord, meaning opposition in the poll nearly doubled after the agreement was announced.
A ‘dangerous deal’
An aide to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Tuesday that the polls reflect growing public skepticism of the agreement.
“The American people, as well as a growing number of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, oppose this deal because it fails the key question: Will this make our country safer?” said Boehner spokesman Cory Fritz. “A deal that puts Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, just a few short steps from a nuclear weapon isn’t just a bad deal — it’s a dangerous deal.”
Mr. Fritz said it was alarming that the president acknowledged in an interview late last week with NPR that Iran would have the capability to build a nuclear weapon “within a matter of months” after the agreement expires in 15 years.
“This is a key admission from a president who has repeatedly insisted that his deal ‘cuts off all pathways’ to a bomb,” he said.
Mr. Obama and his advisers say they hope the public will gain a better understanding of the merits of the agreement before Congress votes on a resolution of disapproval in mid-September.
“People haven’t been getting all the information,” he said last week.
Mr. Obama said that when the agreement is implemented and the public sees that international inspections in Iran are working, “attitudes will change because people will recognize that, in fact, whatever parade of horribles was presented in opposition have not come true.”
The president also has accused Republican lawmakers of knee-jerk partisanship, saying many of them came out against the deal before they even read it.
“Unfortunately, a large portion of the Republican Party, if not a near-unanimous portion of Republican representatives, are going to be opposed to anything that I do,” he told NPR.
The House and Senate majorities are expected to reject the agreement in votes set for next month, but the White House is banking on holding on to enough Democratic support to sustain Mr. Obama’s promised veto.
Most Republican lawmakers have said they will vote against the agreement, but only Mr. Schumer in the Senate and a handful of Democrats in the House have come out against it. Rep. Lois Capps, California Democrat, announced her support for the deal Tuesday, calling it “the best way forward to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and advance the national security interests of the United States and our allies.”
“Blocking this deal would allow Iran to resume its nuclear program with no restrictions or oversight, increasing the likelihood of military conflict and a regional nuclear weapons race — precisely the scenario sanctions were designed to prevent,” she said. “Another costly war in the Middle East would put American lives at risk and undermine the security of our nation and our allies, including Israel.”
Secretary of State John F. Kerry, continuing the administration’s sales job Tuesday, warned that rejection of the Iran deal could lead European governments to walk away from the U.S.-led sanctions strategy against Russia and that the United States and Israel would have no support for military action against Tehran if such action were necessary.
A congressional rejection of the Iran deal could even undercut the status of the U.S. dollar, Mr. Kerry said.
“If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell them, ‘You’re going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,’ that is a recipe, very quickly for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world,” Mr. Kerry said at an event organized by Thomson Reuters in New York.
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