Study: Half of Iranian public would support nuclear deal on terms

A recent survey found 49 percent of Iranians would strongly or somewhat favor their government making a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, but the majority of those surveyed found some demands unacceptable.

The study was conducted by this university’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and the University of Tehran.

Researchers interviewed a random sample of 1,037 Iranians in a telephone poll, said Nancy Gallagher, associate research director at CISSM.

The support Iranians displayed for their nuclear program was nearly unanimous at 94 percent. About 79 percent of Iranians said they were open to negotiating an agreement in which Iran couldn’t produce nuclear weapons, 62 percent were open to more international inspections and 57 percent would consider limiting their level of uranium enrichment.

However, respondents displayed some hesitation toward more extreme measures.

“There’s distrust for the U.S., and trust correlates with willingness,” Gallagher said. “There’s a level of skepticism on whether the U.S. would lift sanctions. The U.S. has a real problem scaling back its demands enough that President [Hassan] Rouhani could get public support for.”

The key findings in the survey showed Iranians are not interested in dismantling half their centrifuges or accepting limits on their nuclear research, Gallagher said. More than 70 percent of the response viewed demands for Iran to dismantle its centrifuges as unacceptable, and 75 percent found demands on limiting its nuclear research unacceptable.

Clay Ramsay, Program on International Policy Attitudes research director and CISSM fellow, said the most surprising thing about the study is that the majority of Iranians are still willing to support confidence-building measures, which include exchanging more access with United States journalists.

“It’s surprising that it hasn’t eroded after years of high tension,” Ramsay said.

Senior analyst at the University of Tehran’s Center for Public Opinion Research Ebrahim Mohseni, who helped develop the poll, has been studying Iranian public opinion since 2006.

“The most significant revelation of all of these studies, including the most recent study, is that reliance on coercion to make Iranians more accommodating has been counter-effective,” Mohseni wrote in an email from Tehran.

In the case of Iran, Mohseni wrote, sanctions only have raised the salience of the nuclear program among the public and have increased the number of Iranians who don’t have favorable views of the U.S., Western European countries and the U.N.

What’s interesting, Mohseni wrote, was how well-informed the Iranian public has become on its country’s nuclear program.

“Sixty-two percent of Iranians have at least some knowledge of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Mohseni wrote. “This is a very high number, considering only 26 percent of Americans do, who are significantly more educated than Iranians.”

Iranians are suspicious at different levels, Mohseni explained. One is that they haven’t been convinced that the U.S. sanctions against Iran are solely because of U.S. concerns with Iran’s nuclear program. Iranians also expressed skepticism that the U.S. would become more accommodating in other areas of contention if Iran were to give concessions in the nuclear area, Mohseni added.

“Iranians are increasingly becoming doubtful whether they should reward the U.S. for its hostility toward Iran and are worried about its ramifications,” Mohseni wrote.

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