WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans support an agreement by the U.S. and five other world powers to limit Iran’s disputed nuclear program, but fewer believe it will keep the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll gave President Barack Obama lower marks for his dealings with Iran.
The five-day survey, conducted Jan. 17-21, was ongoing as the interim agreement went into effect. It calls for Iran to cap uranium enrichment at a level far below what’s necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In exchange, world powers agreed to ease international sanctions by an estimated $7 billion to give some short-term relief to Iran’s crippled economy.
The temporary compromise is set to expire in July, giving negotiators six months to work on a plan to permanently prevent Iran’s nuclear program from becoming a threat.
The poll indicated that 60 percent of American adults approve of the six-month agreement.
But fewer than half – 47 percent – believe it might work.
“From a diplomatic standpoint, it would be great to be able to negotiate and come up with a solution that would eliminate the chance for nuclear weapons for Iran,” respondent Lance Hughey, 40, a lawyer from LaCrosse, Wis., said Monday.
However, “Iran is a difficult country to trust,” said Hughey, who identified himself as an independent voter with slightly Republican leanings. “And the leadership that we see out of D.C., the way things have been conducted with Syria … I don’t believe (the president) has the leadership skills to deal with Iran.”
The poll concluded that overall, 42 percent approve of how Obama handles Iran – about the same as 44 percent in December. Fewer strongly approve of his performance, 25 percent now compared with 30 percent in December.
Obama is the first U.S. president to talk directly with an Iranian leader since 1979, when the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke briefly by phone in late September, and opened the way for meetings and negotiations between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.
But the Obama administration has come under fire from lawmakers who say the tough trade and financial sanctions should not be eased until Iran agrees to all international demands, including settling once and for all any concerns that it may be trying to produce nuclear weapons.
Iran has denied it is seeking a bomb and says it is pursuing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.
The next round of negotiations with Iran is expected to be held in New York next month. The U.S. and its negotiating partners – Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia – will be seeking a long-term agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all respondents. Those respondents who did not have Internet access before joining the panel were provided it for free.
AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.