Iranian public overwelmingly supports nuclear agreement, new study finds

September 09, 2015
NOTE: Read the full report, “Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Agreement.” CISSM has published related studies of Iranian public opinion, in collaboration with the University of Tehran,"Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Negotiations" (June 2015), and "Iranian Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations" (September 2014). CISSM and the Program for Public Consultation have also published several studies on American attitudes toward the nuclear negotitaions: "Assessing the Iran Deal" (September 2015), "Negotiations with Iran: Views from a Red State, a Blue State and a Swing State" (June 2015), "Americans on the Iran Nuclear Issue" (March 2015), and  "American Attitudes on Negotiations with Iran: A Policymaking Simulation" (July 2014). A new survey of the Iranian public, “Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Agreement,” finds that a large majority supports the nuclear agreement that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached in Vienna. Three in four (76%) express support for the deal, and only 21% oppose it. President Rouhani has consolidated his political position. Three quarters say that the deal has made their opinion of President Rouhani much (35%) or somewhat (40%) better. Rouhani’s approval rating—now a stratospheric 88%--has improved, with a large majority (61%) now having a very favorable view (up from 51% in July 2014). Views of Rouhani’s political opponents have declined and a substantial majority (60%) prefers to see Rouhani supporters win out over his critics in the upcoming parliamentary elections (up from 50% in May 2015).   “President Rouhani is widely viewed as having fulfilled his most important campaign promise to get sanctions lifted without abandoning the nuclear program,” said Ebrahim Mohseni, a Research Associate at the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM). “The deal is helping Rouhani consolidate his political position." Despite their support for the agreement, and by extension for Rouhani, however, Iranians underestimate what Iran has and has not agreed to do under the agreement and have unrealistic expectations about the effect of sanctions relief on Iran. A majority (56%) incorrectly believes that Iran has not agreed to limit its nuclear research and development activities. Sixty-one percent incorrectly believe that there are no conditions under which the International Atomic Energy Agency is permitted by the agreement to perform inspections of Iranian military sites. Seventy-seven percent of Iranians also have incorrect beliefs about the timing of sanctions relief.  Only 16% correctly believe that the sanctions will not be lifted until after Iran has verifiably implemented most of its nuclear commitments under the deal, with 77% believing sanctions relief will come sooner. In addition, only 30% of Iranians are aware that U.S. sanctions unrelated to Iran’s nuclear activities would continue, even if Iran fulfills all of its commitments under the deal. Iranians have high and growing expectations that the agreement will rapidly produce significant economic benefits for Iran. Two in three Iranians say they expect to see—within a year—better access to foreign medicines and medical equipment (67%, up from 61% in May 2015); nearly three in four expect to see significantly more foreign investment (72%, up from 62%); 63% expect to see a substantial drop in Iran’s unemployment rates (compared to 52%); and 63% expect to see a tangible improvement in living standards (compared to 55%). According to Mohseni, “While support for the deal and President Rouhani is currently strong, it may dissipate as Iranians become more familiar with Iran’s commitments under the deal and particularly if the deal does not soon produce tangible improvements in people’s lives.” The telephone poll of 1,000 Iranians was conducted August 8-18, 2015, by, an independent, Toronto-based polling organization, for the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. The margin of error was +/- 3.2%.   The conclusion of the agreement has also positively affected Iranian attitudes toward the United States and the other P5+1 countries. Views of the United States, United Kingdom, and France have become less negative, and modest majorities of Iranians now have favorable views of Russia, China, and Germany. A plurality (49%) now says that they trust the P5+1—up from 39% in May 2015. Iranians also expect that the deal will improve Iran’s relations with European countries (89%) and the United States (57%). Support for Iran’s nuclear program also continues to be very strong. Asked how important it is for Iran to develop its nuclear program, 94% said it is either very important (85%) or somewhat important (9%). This is essentially unchanged across various polls conducted in Iran since 2006. Together with the support for the deal, this clearly suggests that Iranians perceive that the nuclear deal will not undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Despite their strong approval of the deal, three in four Iranians also think the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, should be able to scuttle the agreement if it decides it is at odds with Iran’s national interest.