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University of Iowa News Release


May 24, 2010

Hawkeye Poll: Most Americans support preemptive nuclear strikes

A University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll shows most Americans support using nuclear weapons to protect the United States, especially if the threat comes from Iran.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike, under certain conditions, if it were the only viable option. Support increased to 73 percent when Iran was named as the threatening country.

“Americans seem to be more fearful of a potential threat posed by Iran than by a nameless potential enemy,” said Nicholas Martini, a UI doctoral student in political science who helped conduct the poll. “This might reflect the international tensions between the world community and Iran over the threat posed by its nuclear agenda.”

Topline results for the poll are available at:

Republicans were more likely to support a nuclear attack on Iran, and Democrats were more likely to support such force against an unspecified country. Eighty-five percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents supported a nuclear strike on Iran. When no country was named, support was at 63 percent among Democrats, 52 percent among Republicans and 50 percent among independents.

Respondents with less education were more likely to support nuclear force. Eighty percent of respondents without a college education said they approve of a nuclear strike on Iran, compared to 59 percent of those with a college degree. When no country was named, 68 percent of those without college education and 49 percent of those with a college degree supported nuclear force.

The polling team asked respondents whether they would support a preemptive nuclear strike, if it were the only way to solve the problem, in three scenarios: to prevent a country from acquiring nuclear weapons, if the country had nuclear weapons and could strike the United States but had not threatened, and if the country had nuclear weapons and had threatened the United States. Percentages reported in this release reflect the combined support for all three scenarios.

The poll was conducted March 27 through April 3. Of the 703 participants, 33 percent were Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 28 percent independent. Fifty-one percent considered themselves moderate, while 14 percent were liberal and 34 percent were conservative. Results are weighted by state population, age and gender. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.9 percent.

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and graduate students in political science, with the cooperation and facilities of the Iowa Social Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. Faculty advisor for the poll is UI Associate Professor of Political Science Frederick Boehmke. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the UI Department of Political Science. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost fund the poll.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Nathan Darus, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-3381 (office), 216-798-1682 (cell),; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,; Frederick Boehmke, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2342 (office), 716-866-9277 (cell),