Just over half of Americans support a military attack on Iran by the United States and its allies if Teheran doesn't halt its nuclear program, according to a new poll by The Israel Project.
In such a scenario, 51% of Americans would support targeted military strikes and 44% would oppose them.
Fewer of those polled, however, would support Israel taking such action on its own, by a split of 42% to 49%.
However, should Israel go ahead and attack Iran anyway, and then came under retaliatory attack from Iran, a strong majority said the US should lend military defense. In that case 61% said the US should help Israel in that event (with 32% opposed). The number jumped to 68% (with 29% opposed) if Israel comes under attack from Iranian proxies Hizbullah and Hamas.
"That's a very big number at a time when America's involved in two wars that are fairly unpopular with the American people," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, referring to American backing for entering a potential conflict with Iran on behalf of Israel.
Those surveyed were skeptical that engagement and negotiations, or even multilateral sanctions, would halt Iran's nuclear program. Only 40% said there was some or even a good chance those would work, with 59% giving them little or no chance. The skepticism increased if the US alone imposed sanctions.
Still, that path was still favored over force. Twenty-one percent said increased economic sanctions were the best approach for now, with 19% saying increased diplomatic pressure, 17% giving direct negotiations with Iran and 13% choosing US military action.
"While Americans' first choice is diplomacy and sanctions, Americans take the Iranian threat seriously and are prepared to back that with difficult choices and real action if needed," assessed Neil Newhouse, the Republican half of the bipartisan team that conducted the poll.
Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, the other half of the polling team, explained, "Americans want intensified sanctions and support for Iran's domestic opponents, but Iran's response to the elections and the international community leave them very skeptical about the ability to deter Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons."
Whichever approach is taken, those polled stated emphatically that they want their elected officials focused on the issue. Some 78% agreed with the statement that "even with all the problems that America faces at home now, we must still work hard to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons."
The surveys were conducted last Monday through Wednesday of 800 registered voters and had a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error.