Poll: Public prefers diplomacy to attack on Iran as tensions rise with Israel

More than two-thirds of the public believes that continued negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is a better option than an Israeli strike to stop it, according to a new poll from the University of Maryland.

The results diverge from a New York Times/CBS News poll earlier in the week, which found that more people thought the United States should support Israel (47 percent) than not get involved (42 percent) if Israel decides to attack Iran, as it as hinted it could do.

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Taken together, the two polls shine some light on American thinking as tensions continue to rise between the United States, Israel and Iran.

The Times/CBS poll assumes that an attack has occurred, in which case the public favors supporting Israel. However, the Maryland survey shows the public still prefers a diplomatic solution to a military one by a large margin, as 69 percent preferred negotiations while 24 percent wanted an Israeli strike.

In a separate question, the Maryland poll found that most people want the United States to take a neutral stance toward a potential Israeli strike, with 46 percent wanting Washington to stay neutral, 34 percent to discourage Israel from attacking and 14 percent to encourage.

During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington last week, he warned that sanctions were not stopping Iran’s nuclear ambition, and said time was running out. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while the United States, Israel and other western allies believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

The Maryland poll found that 58 percent of respondents believed Iran has decided to produce nuclear weapons and is actively working to do so, something that U.S. officials said has not occurred yet. Thirty percent said they thought Iran has not made that decision yet.

If Israel attacks, 48 percent of U.S. respondents thought a conflict between Israel and Iran would last years, compared to just 22 percent of Israeli respondents taken in a separate survey.