November 27, 2013
Senator Robert Menendez (Reuters/Gary Cameron)
Senator Robert Menendez (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

In a new Reuters poll, Americans back the proposed Iranian nuclear deal by 2-to-1 margin. This is supported by the recent Post/ABC poll that finds 64 percent of Americans support easing sanctions in exchange for a temporary delay of Iran’s nuclear program.

At the same time, though, a bipartisan cast of political elites attacked the agreement before it has even been finalized — underscoring the extent to which Washington has become divorced from the American people on foreign policy.

According to the survey, performed by Reuters/Ipsos, about 44 percent of American support the deal, 22 percent oppose, with the rest undecided. Other questions in the are largely unsurprising: Americans are suspicious of Iran and are supportive of Israel. Here’s the really revealing result:

While indicating little trust among Americans toward Iranian intentions, the survey also underscored a strong desire to avoid new U.S. military entanglements after long, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if the Iran deal fails, 49 percent want the United States to then increase sanctions and 31 percent think it should launch further diplomacy. But only 20 percent want U.S. military force to be used against Iran.

It seems obvious that what the American people want above everything else is no more bloody adventures in the Middle East. Coming to some sort of arrangement where Iran and the west can coexist without crippling economic sanctions or outright conflict would be a load off the national shoulders.

But equally striking is the degree to which many Washington politicians and observers seem from these public sentiments. These are the first formal talks American has had with Iran for thirty years, and as Fred Kaplan says, these may be the best terms America could have possibly gotten. But from Congress and some opion-makers, we’ve mostly seen a level of disapproval that seems disproportionate.

Chuck Schumer said he is “disappointed” with the deal and suggested the Senate would pass additional sanctions, which the White House fears will undermine the agreement if implemented. Bob Menendez and Eliot Engel (both Democrats) were skeptical, though not so aggressively as Schumer. It’s true that Dems want these additional sanctions because they believe they’ll make a longer term deal more likely. But the point is that they seem less comfortable with the basic outlines of the deal than the American public is.

Meanwhile, Republicans opposed the deal faster than a New York cabbie honking at someone for not moving at a green light. And neocons immediately broke out the hysterical Munich analogies.

Few politicians are interested in standing up for the anti-war platform. A handful of Democrats have spoken up for the deal, but with little strength or fanfare. Yet this poll suggests a deep weariness with war, and large potential political benefits for tapping into that sentiment. It’ll be interesting to see if any Dems eying 2016 take notice.