New Poll finds Strong Iranian Support for a Nuclear Deal

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Zarif greets happy Iranians upon his return to Tehran.

Washington, D.C.—A recent study shows that almost six out of ten Iranians said they support Iran pursuing a deal based on the Lausanne framework agreement.  The study, which was written by Ebrahim Mohseni, Nancy Gallagher, and Clay Ramsay, and published by the University of Maryland, the University of Tehran, and IranPoll.com, was conducted between May 12th and 28th, 2015, and included the opinions of over 1,000 Iranians on issues relating to the Iran deal. It was presented at the Carnegie Institute for Peace on June 23, 2015.

This deal would include Iran limiting its nuclear program to the level needed for nuclear energy, limiting the number of its operational centrifuges, reducing its research into advanced centrifuge technology, and opening its nuclear sites to enhanced IAEA inspections. In return, the P5+1 would lift the crippling sanctions currently in place, supply nuclear fuel to Iran, cooperate with Iran on nuclear technology, and permit limited Iranian enrichment.

The poll found that a strong majority of 57% of Iranians support the agreement, with only 15% in opposition and 28% unsure.  The respondent’s gender, education level, and socioeconomic position had no significant effect on how they perceived the deal. However, Iranians who are younger, frequently use the internet, or are supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are more likely to support an agreement.

Significantly, those who believe sanctions would increase and those who believe the sanctions regime would deteriorate without a deal gave similar responses when asked about their support for the deal. This shows that fear of additional sanctions was not a major factor influencing Iranian opinions of an agreement.

Many Iranians are instead motivated by a potential reduction to the high unemployment rate, access to foreign-made medicines, an increase in foreign investment, and an improvement in the standard of living which would likely come with a deal. Iranians also have a much more favorable view of Americans (52% favorable) than they do of the American government (only 12% favorable, giving it the lowest ranking in the P5+1). Thus, some Iranians may be motivated by the potential to bridge the cultural gap between the two nations.  Supporting this is the fact that seven out of ten are for increasing the amount of “cultural, education, and sporting exchanges” (a slight decrease from the 75% reported in a July 2014 poll), and 82% of Iranians are for increasing tourism between the US and Iran—up from 80%. Furthermore, 76% of Iranians also support increased trade between the U.S. and Iran—up from 69%.

However, Mohseni explained that expectations of the potential positive effects of the Iran deal are becoming unrealistic on both sides.  About 60% of Iranians think that they will see significant improvement in Iran within a year after the lifting of sanctions, and 20-30% believe that these changes will be notable within six months. However, Mohseni cautioned that it will take much longer for the positive impacts of the deal to be felt, as most foreign actors will be hesitant to invest in Iran until the nuclear deal appears sustainable. The overly optimistic expectations of the Iranian people could be due partly to Rouhani, who is attempting to sell the deal to the public, and partly to hardliners, who want the deal to look like a failure if it’s implemented. If the deal unravels, Iranians will lose much of their already limited trust in the American government, and will be unlikely to look for another nuclear deal anytime soon.

Read the full study at: http://www.cissm.umd.edu/publications/iranian-public-opinion-nuclear-negotiations

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