Half of Americans expect a war with Iran
Poll also finds 60 per cent do not want the US to attack first
Half of all Americans believe the United States will go to war with Iran "within the next few years", according to a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll released on Tuesday amid increased tensions between the two countries.
While Americans are more concerned about Iran as a security threat to the United States now than they were last year, few would be in favour of a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian military. But if Iran attacked US military forces first, four out of five believed the United States should respond militarily in a full or limited way, the poll, conducted between May 17 and 20, showed.
Historically tense relations between Washington and Tehran worsened this month. US President Donald Trump hardened his anti-Iran stance and restored all sanctions on Iranian oil exports after his decision a year ago to pull the United States out of a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran.
The US moved an aircraft carrier and other forces to the Gulf in response to intelligence that Iran may be plotting attacks against US interests, an assertion Iran denies.
Nearly half – 49 per cent – of Americans disapprove of how Mr Trump is handling relations with Iran, the poll found, with 31 per cent saying they strongly disapprove. Overall, 39 per cent approve of Mr Trump's policy.
The survey showed that 51 per cent of adults felt the US and Iran would go to war within the next few years, up eight percentage points from a similar poll published last June. In this year's poll, Democrats and Republicans were both more likely to see Iran as a threat and to say war was likely.
Iran was characterised by 53 per cent of adults in the United States as either a "serious" or "imminent" threat, up six percentage points from a similar poll from last July. In comparison, 58 per cent of Americans characterised North Korea as a threat and 51 per cent characterised Russia as a threat.
Despite their concerns, 60 per cent of Americans said the US should not conduct a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian military, while 12 per cent advocate striking first.
If Iran attacked, however, 79 per cent said that the US military should retaliate: 40 per cent favoured a limited response with air strikes, while 39 per cent favoured a full invasion.
Both the United States and Iran have said they do not want war, although there have been bellicose statements from both.
Despite Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, the poll showed 61 per cent of Americans still supported it.
Gulf allies and US government officials said they believed Iran-backed groups are responsible for a series of attacks on shipping and pipelines in the Gulf in the past week.
Mr Trump said he would like to negotiate with the Islamic republic's leaders. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected talks on Tuesday and has said "economic war" is being waged against Iran.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the US. It gathered responses from 1,007 adults, including 377 Democrats and 313 Republicans, and has a credibility interval of four percentage points.
Updated: May 22, 2019 12:05 PM