As Americans continue their long vigil awaiting the release of the 52 hostages in Iran, a 68-to-28 percent majority agrees with the sentiment that "I feel personally deeply involved emotionally with the fate of the hostages, and I am willing to wait as long as necessary to get the hostages back unharmed."
Indeed, a 52-to-35 percent majority feels that it is "more important in settling the hostage situation in Iran to preserve the lives of the hostages than to preserve the honor of the United States."
In many ways, this deep personal dedication to getting the hostages home safely is a major legacy of the record of President Carter during his term in the White House. The results of this latest ABC News-Harris Survey of 1,200 adults nationwide show that a 70-to-27 percent majority feels that "by being so patient, President Carter has kept alive the chance that one day the hostages will be returned unharmed."
In addition, on five key decisions that Carter made about the Iran crisis, majorities of Americans give him high marks:
By 86 to 11 percent, a majority feels that the president was more right than wrong "to seize all Iranian assets in the United States.c
By 88 to 10 percent, people are convinced that Carter was more right than wrong to "try to get the U.N. commission to get the hostages freed."
An 82-to-14 percent majority feels it was right to have "cut off all oil shipments to the United States from Iran."
By 83 to 11 percent, a majority feels that Carter was more right than wrong to have "applied economic sanctions on Iran."
By a smaller 59 to 37 percent, a majority thinks Carter was more right than wrong to have "attempted the helicopter rescue mission of the hostages last April." Even though it failed, that rescue mission is now seen as a proper step for Carter to have taken.
But these specifics do not add up to an overall assessment that the Carter record on Iran was a success:
By 56 to 40 percent, a majority of Americans feels that "looking back on it now, right after the hostages were seized, the United States should have given Iran an ultimatum to give back the hostages by a certain day, and then taken direct military action against Iran, even if this might have endangered the lives of the hostages." However, this appraisal is made in retrospect after the hostages have been held captive for more than a year. Last February, a 62-to-29 percent majority felt that it would be wrong to issue such an ultimatum to the Iranian government to obtain the release of the hostages.
When asked to assess Carter's handling of the hostage situation, a substantial 63-to-26 percent majority feels that it has been a failure.