WASHINGTON -- As international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear development program continue, a growing share of Americans say they want firm action to end the threat of the Tehran regime building a nuclear bomb, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Fifty-six percent of respondents said they favor Washington taking a "firm stand" with Iran, while 41% said it is "more important to avoid military conflict," the poll found. The share saying they advocate firm action has increased from 50% since January.
The poll, taken of 1,511 adults October 4-7, didn't define "firm stand."
The Obama administration has argued that a combined effort of international economic sanctions and diplomacy can persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, and says time remains before policymakers need to decide whether to launch airstrikes and/or other military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Western nations believe that Iran is developing the capacity to build nuclear weapons; Iran says its nuclear program is meant for civilian purposes only.
The poll also found some disillusionment with the popular revolts that rocked much of the Middle East last year in the "Arab Spring," and a growing desire for Washington to support stable Middle Eastern governments, even if they are undemocratic. The results also pointed to a desire for the United States to scale back involvement in the turbulent region.
The results suggest some gulf between the public and political leaders in Washington. President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney both advocate continued deep engagement in the region and active efforts to foster democratic governments.
The survey found 57% of respondents said they don't believe the uprisings that ousted governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will lead to lasting improvements for their citizens.That's up sharply from 43% in April 2011, three months into the upheaval.
It also found that 54% said they believe it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy. In contrast, 36% said it is more important to have democratic governments. Sixty-three percent said they think the United States should be less involved with changes of leadership in the Middle East, while 23% said it should be more involved.
The poll also indicated that most Americans say they want an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. currently has about 68,000 troops in that country, and the Obama administration plans to withdraw them by the end of 2014, although the pace of the pullout remains unclear.
Fifty-eight percent of independent respondents and 70% of Democrats said they want American troops removed as quickly as possible. Republicans were evenly split, with 48% saying they want immediate withdrawal and 48% saying they want the troops to stay "until the situation is stabilized."
-- Paul Richter