Americans Say Iran Is Their Greatest Enemy

by Joseph Carroll

Iran surpasses Iraq as greatest enemy to U.S.

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- More Americans consider Iran the United States' greatest enemy today than any other country, according to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey. Iraq, North Korea, and China are also mentioned frequently by Americans as the United States' greatest enemy. This poll marks the first time that Iran has topped the list as the United States' greatest enemy; in previous years, Iraq or North Korea ranked first. Republicans are more likely than Democrats, and men are more likely than women, to say Iran is the country's greatest enemy.

The poll, conducted Feb. 6-9, 2006, asked Americans, without prompting, to name "one country anywhere in the world" that they "consider to be America's greatest enemy today." Thirty-one percent say Iran is the greatest enemy, while 22% say Iraq, 15% say North Korea, and 10% say China.

Gallup has asked this question of the public three times since 2001. In each survey, there has been a change in the country or countries at the top of the list. In 2001, Iraq (38%) was considered the greatest enemy by a wide margin over any other country. China was second that year at 14%, followed by Iran at 8%.

Last year, Iraq and North Korea tied as America's greatest enemy, each at 22%. Iran and China followed next at 14% and 10% respectively.

Although there has been movement at the very top of the list, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and China have typically been among the top four countries cited. The percentage of Americans who say Iran is the greatest enemy has increased in each of the three surveys, while the percentage mentioning Iraq has declined during this time.

Partisanship Shapes Views of Americans' Greatest Enemy

Republicans are more likely than independents or Democrats to say Iran is the greatest enemy facing the United States right now, although Iran is considered the greatest threat by all three groups. Iraq is mentioned as the second greatest U.S. enemy among all three groups, but the gap between Iran and Iraq is narrower among Democrats and independents than it is Republicans.

Nearly 4 in 10 Republicans (39%) name Iran as the greatest enemy, while 16% say Iraq and 14% say North Korea. This compares with 28% of Democrats who say Iran is the greatest enemy, 23% who say Iraq, and 17% who say North Korea. Among independents, 29% mention Iran, 26% mention Iraq, and 14% mention North Korea.

When Gallup first asked this question in 2001, the partisan groups generally agreed on which country was America's greatest enemy with Republicans, independents, and Democrats all saying Iraq by a wide margin. But, in 2005, there was less consensus among the party groups. Republicans were almost equally likely to mention North Korea (23%), Iran (21%), and Iraq (18%) as the greatest enemy, while 23% of Democrats and independents were most likely to say Iraq.

America's Greatest Enemy Trend
by Party Affiliation

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

2006 Feb 6-9

Iran

39

29

28

Iraq

16

26

23

North Korea

14

14

17

2005 Feb 7-10

Iran

21

8

12

Iraq

18

25

23

North Korea

23

15

17

2001 Feb 1-4

Iran

9

7

7

Iraq

43

34

40

North Korea

3

2

1

Younger Women Say Iraq is Greatest Enemy; Men Say Iran

The latest poll also shows interesting variations by gender and age, with men much more likely than women to say Iran is the United States' greatest enemy, and younger women more likely than older women or men of any age, to say Iraq is the greatest enemy.

Iran, at 38%, is viewed as the greatest enemy of the United States among men, while women mention Iraq (28%) and Iran (25%) about equally.

Adults under age 50 are more divided as to whether Iran (28%) or Iraq (26%) is the country's greatest enemy, while Iran is decisively the greatest enemy among older Americans (those aged 50 and older).

These differences by age occur primarily among women. Thirty-four percent of women aged 18 to 49 say Iraq is the greatest enemy while 20% say Iran. Among women aged 50 and older, the opposite is true -- 32% say Iran and 21% say Iraq. Men at any age are much more likely to cite Iran, rather than Iraq, as the greatest enemy.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted February 6-9, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 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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