In order for the Iran deal to be damaging to a Clinton candidacy it would need to be unpopular with either the public as a whole, or among Democrats, or among the foreign policy opinion leaders of the Democratic Party. Any of those groups could present a problem, either in the general election or in the primaries.
But as the most recent polls show, the nuclear deal with Iran has the general support of the American public. The question wording and fielding modes vary by survey, but the results are remarkably similar, with roughly six in ten Americans favoring the Iran deal and four in ten opposed. The Cato/YouGov and ABCNews/Washington Post polls, conducted after the deal was announced, are also very similar to the findings of the 2015 Chicago Council Survey, fielded while the P5+1 talks with Iran were still ongoing.
The deal is even more popular among Democrats than it is with the American public at large. Depending on the poll, between seven and eight in ten Democrats favor the deal. Independents also tend to back the deal in similar proportions to the overall public (between 55 and 57 percent, depending on the specific survey).
Democrats remain supportive even if the question does not provide any information on the deal. The latest Pew survey does just that, and while the lack of information pushes down support for the deal somewhat, it’s still popular with Democrats. Among those who say they’ve heard at least a little bit about the agreement, six in ten (59%) Democrats approve of the deal, compared to only one in four (25%) who oppose it.
Nor are there deep divisions among Democrats on the virtues of the deal. Diving deeper into the 2015 Chicago Council Survey data shows strong support for the Iran deal among self-identified “strong Democrats” (73%), “not strong Democrats” (76%), and among Democratic-leaning Independents (79%).
Finally, the deal also has the backing of opinion leaders within the Democratic Party, critical in the 'invisible primary' phase of the campaign. In the 2014 Chicago Council Survey of hundreds of foreign policy opinion leaders, overwhelming majorities of Democrats (96%) and Independents (86%) favored the interim deal with Iran (which closely mirrors the final agreement).
Given the support across all areas of her party, backing the Iran deal will cause Hillary Clinton few problems in her campaign for the Democratic nomination. In fact, given the strong support for the deal among Democrats, it’s likely the opposite.
Endnotes on Methods:
The 2015 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using the KnowledgePanel, a nationwide online research panel recruited through an address-based sampling frame. The survey was fielded between May 25 to June 17, 2015 among a national sample of 2,034 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error ranges from ± 2.2 to ± 3.1 percentage points depending on the specific question, with higher margins of error for partisan subgroups.
The Cato/YouGov survey was designed by the Cato Institute and conducted by YouGov from July 14-16, 2015 and interviewed 1,161 Americans who were matched down to a sample of 1,000 to produce the final dataset. YouGov conducted the survey online with its proprietary Web-enabled survey software, using a method called Active Sampling. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that only the people selected and contacted by YouGov are allowed to participate. Results have a ±4.3 point margin of error.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone July 16-19, 2015, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell phone respondents. Results have a ±3.5 point margin of error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation was done by Abt-SRBI of New York.
The Pew Research Center poll was conducted by telephone interviews between July 14-20, 2015 among a national sample of 2,002 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (700 respondents were interviewed on a landline telephone, and 1,302 were interviewed on a cell phone, including 758 who had no landline telephone). The survey was conducted by interviewers at Princeton Data Source under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. A combination of landline and cell phone random digit dial samples were used; both samples were provided by Survey Sampling International. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Results have a ±2.5 point margin of error for overall results.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy.
The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion.
The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.
Throughout these posts I've tried to highlight the critical impact of question wording on polling results, and how specific wording can influence responses.
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