A majority of voters support sending at least some U.S. troops and missile and air defenses to Saudi Arabia after airstrikes on Saudi oil fields this month that the U.S., European and Arab nations have blamed on Iran, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the poll released Thursday said they would back sending such military support to Saudi Arabia, while 42 percent said they would oppose such a move. A larger majority of respondents, 72 percent, said they support sanctions that the Trump administration has placed on Iran in the wake of the oil field attacks, according to the survey. Nearly as many respondents, 71 percent, also said the U.S. should to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran instead of launching a military strike on the country.ADVERTISEMENT Sending U.S. troops and air defenses to Saudi Arabia would almost certainly escalate tensions with Iran and raise the potential of a new U.S.-involved conflict in the Middle East.
Asked whether they would support or oppose another U.S.-led military engagement in the Middle East, nearly two-thirds of respondents — 64 percent — said they would object to such a move, while 34 percent said they would back that effort.
“The public does not want to take direct military action against Iran unless they attack American interests, but they fully support sending more troops and missile defenses to help protect Saudi Arabia,” Mark PennMark PennThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden leads Trump by 6 points in new poll Biden leads Trump by 6 points as voters sour on pandemic response: poll Poll: Two-thirds of voters say the economy is on the wrong track MORE, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, said.
“Iran is seen as the No. 1 enemy of the U.S. in the world today and yet Americans want more diplomacy first.”
In fact, the only scenario in which a majority of Americans — 73 percent — said they would support a U.S.-led strike on Iran is if the Islamic republic were to launch an attack on U.S. military assets or personnel.
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The U.S. sent roughly 500 troops to Saudi Arabia this summer, the first time Washington has deployed troops to the country since a 2003 withdrawal following the invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. is now preparing to deploy more troops to the kingdom after airstrikes on two oil fields that Washington has blamed on Iran. The Pentagon has said that deployment will involve a moderate number of troops and would be defensive rather than offensive.
The Harvard CAPS/Harris poll surveyed 2,009 registered U.S. voters from Sept. 22-24. The poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll throughout 2019.
Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.