Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Agreement

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Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, Clay Ramsay, "Iranian Opinion on the Nuclear Agreement," CISSM Publication, September 2015.


The current study was conducted shortly after the JCPOA was released and approved by the U.N. Security Council. The survey seeks to understand how attitudes and expectations have changed since the nuclear deal was achieved. It also explores the relationship between Iranians’ assumptions about the terms of the deal, their expectations about its benefits and risks, and their attitudes toward their current political leaders, the United States, and the other countries in the negotiations. These assumptions, expectations, and attitudes set the context in which Iranian leaders will decide whether or not to approve the deal. They are also likely to influence how Iranian policymakers and the public respond to whatever actions the United States takes as it reviews the JCPOA and reassesses its policies towards Iran. 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%. Full Report | Questionnaire and frequency tables. Summary of Findings 1. Iran - P5+1 Nuclear Agreement Vast majorities of Iranians approve of the nuclear agreement that was reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries in Vienna, whereas only a fifth disapprove of it. While about a third sees the agreement as mostly a victory for Iran, over four in ten see it as beneficial for both Iran and the P5+1, though Iran is perceived to have made fewer concessions. Iranians overwhelmingly approve of the performance of their negotiators. A majority of Iranians are optimistic that both the UN Security Council and the United States are likely to act in good faith and remove sanctions as the deal requires. Nevertheless, three in four continue to believe that the Majlis (Iran’s parliament) should be able to prevent the agreement from taking effect if it finds the terms to be at odds with Iran’s national interests. Also, almost all Iranians continue to believe that it is very important for Iran to develop its nuclear program. 2. Views of Rouhani As a result of the nuclear agreement, a large majority says it now has a better opinion of President Hassan Rouhani. As Iran’s parliamentary elections near, three in five Iranians now want Rouhani’s supporters to win, while only about one in five favor his critics. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s already high approval ratings have risen even more since the agreement was reached while their opponents’ popularity has declined slightly. 3. Misperceptions about the Nuclear Agreement While Iranians have a positive view of the nuclear agreement, they also underestimate the scope and extent of the commitments Iran has made under the deal. Substantial majorities incorrectly believe that according to the agreement:

-all U.S. sanctions, not just nuclear-related ones—will be lifted eventually;

  • the sanctions on Iran will start to be lifted either before or at the same time as Iran takes most of the steps it has agreed to take under the deal; -Iran has not agreed to any limitations on its nuclear research and development activities; -the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cannot inspect Iranian military sites under any conditions.

Those who hold these misperceptions are far more supportive of the deal than those who don’t. Among those who don’t hold these misperceptions, support is lower, but generally half or more still approve of the deal. Also, Rouhani supporters are more likely to hold these misperceptions than critics. 4. High Expectations about Positive Effects of the Deal Iranians express high expectations that the nuclear deal will have significant positive effects in the near term. Growing majorities say that as a result of the deal they expect to see, within a year, better access to foreign medicines and medical equipment, significantly more foreign investment, a significant drop in Iran’s unemployment rate, and tangible improvement in living standards. Almost three in five Iranians now think that the economic conditions in Iran are getting better. Half of Iranians now think that rather than aiming to achieve self-sufficiency, Iran should strive to increase its trade with other countries—up from four in ten a year ago. 5. Iran’s Relations with the United States in the Wake of the Deal A majority of Iranians believes that relations with the United States will improve after the nuclear deal. Several trend questions show strong shifts on views of the United States. A majority no longer believes that Iran’s nuclear concessions will likely lead the United States to use pressure to extract more concessions on other issues. Majorities approve of Iran and the United States collaborating with each other to help the government of Iraq and counter ISIS. Large majorities continue to say that they have an unfavorable view of the United States, but a growing number believe that Iran and the United States should strive to mitigate conflicts between the two countries. 6. Changing Views of Other Countries and Economic Relations Iranians show warming attitudes toward the P5+1 countries as a whole and toward Europe. A plurality now says that it trusts the P5+1 countries, and large majorities say they expect relations with Europe to improve. Iranians also believe that as a result of the agreement, other countries view their country with more respect. Views of all P5+1 countries have become a bit more favorable and majorities now have favorable attitudes toward Germany, Russia, and China. Iranians are also showing increasing openness to economic relations with other countries.