02/07/2006 - Public concern over Iran's nuclear program has risen dramatically in the past few months. Today, 27% of Americans cite Iran as the country that represents the greatest danger to the United States. In October, just 9% pointed to Iran as the biggest danger to the U.S., while there was far more concern over Iraq, China and North Korea. Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that Iran's nuclear program is a major threat to the U.S., placing it on par with North Korea's nuclear program, and far ahead of China's emerging power among possible threats to the United States.
Overwhelming numbers believe that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would likely launch attacks on Israel (72%), and the U.S. or Europe (66%). There is even greater agreement that a nuclear-armed Iran would be likely to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists (82%).
The public is clearer in its view of the potential threat posed by Iran than in what to do about it. More Americans worry that we will wait too long than act too quickly in dealing with Iran's nuclear problem. However, far more Americans say the United Nations or the European Union rather than the U.S. should take the lead in dealing with the crisis.
This national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 1-5, 2006, among 1,502 Americans, finds that President Bush received no bounce from his Jan. 31 State of the Union address. Bush's approval rating stands at 40% largely unchanged over the past month. Interest in Bush's speech was fairly modest about as many paid very close attention to the recent layoffs at the Ford Motor Co. (25%) as to the State of the Union (24%). The public continues to take a mixed view of Bush's performance on issues generally positive on terrorism (53% approval) but negative on virtually every domestic issue. In two key areas, health care and the deficit, Bush's ratings have declined markedly over the past year, to below 30% on each issue.
But the president appears to be making headway with his defense of the government's authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps of suspected terrorists. By 54%-43%, the public believes it is generally right for the government to monitor communications of Americans suspected of having terrorist ties without first obtaining permission from the courts. In early January, the public was evenly divided over this issue (48% generally right/47% generally wrong). Moderate and liberal Republicans, in particular, are now more supportive of the program. In January, moderate and liberal Republicans favored warrantless monitoring of suspected terrorists by 56%-41%; now by about three-to-one (71%-24%) they feel the program is generally right.
The survey finds sweeping public agreement with Bush's assertion that "America is addicted to oil," but some skepticism about whether the U.S. can wean itself from foreign oil within the next two decades. Fully 85% say the U.S., as a country, is addicted to oil. Half of Americans say the U.S. can end its reliance on foreign oil sources within the next 20 years, while 42% think we cannot.