Roughly three quarters of Americans support increasing international sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; even more favor direct diplomatic talks to try and resolve the situation. Support for diplomatic measures is high across the political spectrum, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
Only a much smaller 41 percent support bombing Iran's nuclear development sites, while 53 percent of the public opposes such a move. Partisan divides are sharper on this issue: Majorities of Democrats and independents oppose bombing Iran, while most Republicans favor this option. A similar 42 percent support Israel bombing Iran's nuclear development sites, while 51 percent are opposed.
Americans' hesitance to take direct military action -- or for Israel to do the same -- may be driven by a fear of igniting a larger conflict in the region. More than three quarters of Americans say a bombing attack by Israel would have a major risk of starting a larger war in the Middle East, and this group opposes bombing by nearly 2 to 1. Among those who are doubtful an Iran confrontation would spread throughout the region, a large majority support bombing Iran.
Different surveys have implied mixed conclusions about what the public wants on Iran, as we explored in February. Indeed, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds a 51 percent majority favor military action against Iran, which seems to contradict the Post-ABC poll as well as a CBS/NYT poll last month -- where only 15 percent thought Iran requires "military action now."
The big differences are rooted in survey question wording. When Americans are offered a single solution to combat something they deeply oppose -- Iran acquiring nuclear weapons -- substantial numbers say they're willing to use military force. But when given the choice of military intervention as well as economic sanctions, most opt for the diplomatic route.