President Barack Obama's policy of sanctions and restraint with Iran is widely popular, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, but few give him good ratings when it comes to the nation's intent to develop nuclear weapons.
The issue has election-year implications on both foreign and domestic policy front, with more than eight in 10 Americans believing that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Back at home, rising gas prices are proving a drag on Obama's approval rating on the economy, and providing a potent political weapon for the field of Republican challengers.
Obama has urged restraint with Iran and for allowing sanctions to put pressure on Tehran. "We have a window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically," Obama argued last week after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Americans by a more than 2 to 1 margin favor a "wait and see" approach on Iran over immediate military action, according to the new poll. Fully 64 percent say it's more important to see if economic sanctions work, even if it allows more time for Iran's nuclear program to progress; only 26 percent support pre-emptive action to halt Iran's progress. Majorities or pluralities across party lines prefer sanctions over immediate action, though Republicans are less supportive than Democrats or independents.
Sanctions may be a core tenet of his administration's approach, but Obama is not reaping much of a reward being cautious. More than half of Americans, 52 percent, disapprove of Obama's handling of the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, while 36 percent approve. The negative assessment could be tied to the political realities of the moment: Most Americans think Iran is trying to get a nuclear weapon, and the Obama administration and U.S. allies have yet to ensure that, well, it won't -- and that it will live by its promise to pursue a peaceful nuclear program.