This past week, I asked 450 voters to rate — on a scale of 1 (for dissatisfied) to 10 (approval) — President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran agreement. Although there is common ground in America on issues like gun control, DACA, and infrastructure, voters are very divided on America’s exit from this deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
“I’d give it a 1,” writes Brenda from New Mexico. “This is one more spiteful move, contrary to the advice of our allies and our seasoned diplomats. Its purpose seems mainly to undo anything Obama accomplished — and it further discredits the US in the eyes of the world.”
“TEN!” says Edward from Maryland. “The Iran deal was built upon a set of lies from Iran and the false premises promulgated by Obama and Kerry. At best, the deal delayed Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons while they screamed ‘Death to Our Neighbors and to America.’ ”
“Horrible!” writes Danielle from New York. “I have spent a lot of time in multiple college classes learning about US-Iran relations, and specifically this deal. It is foolish to think that Iran will cave to sanctions, and while the deal was not perfect, this betrays trust internationally and undermines our commitment to creating a more peaceful world.”
“My take is that it’s a 10,” says Geoff from New Hampshire. “It was a one-sided deal to begin with, and a new agreement will strengthen our position. And, once again, it shows that when Trump says he’ll do something, he delivers. Strength talks, while B.S. walks!”
It’s a stunning example of polarization in the views of Americans.
Many voters dug into the details of the Iran issue, quoting everything from Fox News to John Oliver. Carol from Ohio went to the JCPOA website and re-read the entire agreement before she sent in what she called “a big fat 10.”
In the minds of voters across the country, there are three factors affecting their views:
(1) Whether we got enough in return for lifting hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions. To Trump supporters, we were focused too narrowly on nuclear capabilities, with no regard to ballistic missiles or the use of the money, which, they have read, is funneled to terrorist activities in Syria and Yemen. And, “The deal took all future nonmilitary options off the table.” To nonsupporters of Trump’s action, it was an imperfect deal, supported by our allies, that was working successfully as a deterrent.
(2) Whether this deal hurts us or helps us with North Korea. Those who disapprove of Trump’s decision believe that our exit demonstrates that you cannot rely on the United States to keep its promises. On the other hand, those who agree with the decision believe this move demonstrates that “the US will no longer be manipulated into spineless, ridiculous deals with terrorist dictators who hate us.”
(3) Whether they trust that Trump made this decision with extensive thought, input, and conversation with allies. The anti-Trumpers believe that this was a rash campaign promise, made by an uninformed president who will reject anything done by Obama. The supporters of the agreement see the president meeting with international allies, consulting with his team, and accessing much more intelligence than we have.
If there is any common ground at all in the minds of voters, it’s the ephemeral nature of executive power. Any deal done without the approval of Congress just might be a deal without teeth, and voters are wondering whether Trump will strike a North Korean agreement on his own without ultimately reaching out to lawmakers for their blessing.
And few are surprised about the decision. After all, this is a president who does what he says he’s going to do — even when those promises are alarming.
Clarification: The voters in this column were given pseudonyms to protect their identity.
Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, author, and chair of C Space. She has been in conversation with 450 voters across the political spectrum weekly since December 2016. Follow her on Twitter @DianeHessan.