Americas

Americans Favor President Meeting With U.S. Enemies

Six in 10 think it’s a good idea to meet with president of Iran

PRINCETON, NJ -- Large majorities of Democrats and independents, and even about half of Republicans, believe the president of the United States should meet with the leaders of countries that are considered enemies of the United States. Overall, 67% of Americans say this kind of diplomacy is a good idea.

This is according to a Gallup Panel survey of a representative national sample of 1,013 Americans, conducted May 19-21.

Although separate Gallup polling shows that few Americans view Iran favorably, and that Iran leads Americans' list of top U.S. enemies in the world, the new Gallup survey also finds high public support for presidential-level meetings between the United States and Iran, specifically.

About 6 in 10 Americans (59%) think it would be a good idea for the president of the United States to meet with the president of Iran. This includes about half of Republicans, a majority of independents, and most Democrats.

Both positions enjoy broad popular appeal, with majorities of men, women, younger and older Americans, and those from different regions of the country all saying direct presidential-level talks with Iran and other enemies are a good idea.

The issue of using presidential diplomacy with U.S. enemies distinguishes Barack Obama from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and even from his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Obama is the only one of the three who has said he would personally meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela as president, and he recently defended his position by saying "strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries." Clinton has criticized Obama's approach as "naïve," and McCain has been unrelenting in his attacks on the issue, accusing Obama of being dangerously inexperienced and having "reckless judgment."

Bottom Line

McCain may eventually persuade more Americans that there is nothing for the president of the United States to discuss with hostile foreign leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and that to do so only undermines U.S. efforts to destabilize such regimes.

However, for now, whether it's the leader of an "enemy" country, generally, or the president of Iran, specifically, Americans think it's a good idea for the president of the United States to meet directly with the nation's adversaries.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 19-21, 2008. Gallup Panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the 529 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 484 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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