Times Story Offers Obama Cover
Pew Pre-Debate Research: 'Attack Iran' Policy Can Be Effective

Analysis: The Democratic Party is deeply divided on Iran policy, according to the Pew Research Center.

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Amiel Ungar,

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Israel news photo: Flash 90

While the polls have been infuriatingly inconsistent in terms of predicting who is leading in the battleground states and by how much (some differ on the question whether some states are secure or still tossups), in a recent Pew Research Poll , American public opinion appears more decisive on a number of key issues.

By 66% to 35%, Americans favor taking a firm stand against Iran over a policy of avoiding military conflicts. Republican voters are particularly strong on this position, but the Democrats splinter with conservative and moderate Democrats favoring by 49 to 43% firm action against Iran, while among liberal Democrats 51% prioritize avoiding military conflict - meaning that by a narrow margin of 48% to 43% Obama voters prefer avoiding military conflict. Romney voters, by 78% over 17%, favor taking a firm stand. This demonstrates that the Democrats are more severely split on this issue.

Therefore, the leak to the New York Times  on direct US-Iranian talks following the elections is designed to prevent Mitt Romney from making use of the effective issue"

If talks are at a sensitive stage, it would not appear wise to upset the apple cart. The story, that has a verifiability date past Election Day, allows Obama's campaign to spin that his strategy of sanctions is working. However, it could also be interpreted as showing that the Iranians, fearing a Romney victory, have decided to strengthen Obama, which, if true, would not work to Obama's favor.

The most important take away from the Pew Research Center report is that public opinion prefers the late former UN ambassador in the Reagan administration, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, over Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.  Columnist Caroline Glick has been the most forceful champion of Kirkpatrick's views.

Kirkpatrick defended supporting pro-American autocrats over democracies that could be easily subverted by extremist movements in the third world. Kristol believes that despite setbacks, democratization is the best path. As the early enthusiasm for the "Arab Spring" gives way to skepticism, Americans by a 54 to 30% margin prefer pro-American stability - even at the expense of democracy - to more democracy with less stability. Americans are generally skeptical about whether the "Arab Spring" has changed things in the Middle East - and belive that if it has, it has changed them for the worst.

America wants out of Afghanistan as soon as possible and this is an issue where Mitt Romney will have to be very careful against Barack Obama, who has set a cutoff date for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Romney has promised to rely on the military professionals who are on the ground.

In examining public opinion on relations with China, Pew Research found that Americans are less concerned with the security issue and are more concerned with the amount of American debt held by China and American jobs lost to China. American public opinion advocates a tougher approach on China in economic areas.