Facebook Icon Youtube Icon Twitter Icon Flickr Icon Vimeo Icon RSS Icon Itunes Icon Pinterest Icon

UMD Study Finds Iranian Public Overwhelmingly Supports Nuclear Agreement

September 10, 2015

Jonas Siegel 301-405-4020

Widespread misperceptions about the deal persist, according to the study by
UMD's School of Public Policy

COLLEGE PARK, MD - A new University of Maryland study of the Iranian public finds that a large majority supports the nuclear agreement that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached in Vienna. Three in four (76 percent) express support for the deal, and only 21 percent oppose it. 

President Rouhani has consolidated his political position. Three quarters say that the deal has made their opinion of President Rouhani much (35 percent) or somewhat (40 percent) better. Rouhani’s approval rating—now a stratospheric 88 percent --has improved, with a large majority (61 percent) now having a very favorable view (up from 51 percent in July 2014). Views of Rouhani’s political opponents have declined and a substantial majority (60 percent) prefers to see Rouhani supporters win out over his critics in the upcoming parliamentary elections (up from 50 percent 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), a research center at the university’s School of Public Policy. “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 percent) 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 percent 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 percent believing sanctions relief will come sooner. In addition, only 30 percent 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 percent, up from 61 percent in May 2015); nearly three in four expect to see significantly more foreign investment (72 percent, up from 62 percent); 63 percent expect to see a substantial drop in Iran’s unemployment rates (compared to 52 percent); and 63 percent expect to see a tangible improvement in living standards (compared to 55 percent). 

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 IranPoll.com, an independent, Toronto-based polling organization, for the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. The margin of error was +/- 3.2 percent.  

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 percent) now says that they trust the P5+1—up from 39 percent in May 2015. Iranians also expect that the deal will improve Iran’s relations with European countries (89 percent) and the United States (57 percent). 

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 percent said it is either very important (85 percent) or somewhat important (9 percent). 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. 

Read the full report, “Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Agreement”:


View the full questionnaire and frequency tables:


Read additional studies on American and Iranian attitudes toward the nuclear negotiations and agreement: http://cissm.umd.edu/projects/program-public-consultation