Iran and U.S. Public Opinion

by Rethink Media

Despite an unfriendly attitude toward Iran, Americans have an appetite for diplomacy, and support for the Iran deal has risen over time.

Eight recent polls found an average of 50% support for the deal. CNN/SRSS finds 67% support, the Chicago Council 60%, CBS/YouGov 58%, Economist/YouGov 56%, Morning Consult 54%, Harvard/Harris 40%, NBC/SurveyMonkey 39%, and Quinnipiac 31%.

There are a few factors that contribute to the 36-point range across polls. Polling questions including less information about the Iran deal tend to find less support for it. The most recent batch of polls illustrates this phenomenon: the polls on the lower end of the gap—Harvard/Harris, NBC/SurveyMonkey, and Quinnipiac—do not explain what the Iran deal is.

In addition, NBC/SurveyMonkey’s sample population skews older than the other polls with available demographic information; since older generations tend to be more conservative, this may help explain the poll’s lower support finding. (Harvard/HarrisNBC/SurveyMonkeyQuinnipiac).

By contrast, CNN/SRSS tracks relatively high. Their question explains the Iran deal, but does not mention US concessions in the deal, which may contribute to an upward bias. (CNN/SRSS).

The issue remains highly partisan. Liberals are almost twice as likely as Conservatives to “strongly” support the Iran deal in the Economist/YouGov poll (48–26%). Likewise, while three quarters (73%) of Democrats in the Chicago Council poll favor participation in the Iran deal, just half of Republicans agree (48%). (Economist/YouGovChicago Council).


While a plurality (44%) believe presidents “need to follow” the treaties of their predecessors and a majority support the Iran deal, according to Economist/YouGov, the public appears unsure about decertification. Suffolk/USA Today finds that the public is split 38–37% on withdrawing from the deal. Morning Consult finds a similar split, 37–34%, on recertification. Harvard/Harris finds a 66­–34% split in favor of renegotiating the deal, a 68–32% split in favor of decertification and imposing sanctions, and a 51–49% split in favor of President Trump’s decision to decertify the deal. (Economist/YouGovSuffolk/USA TodayMorning ConsultHarvard/Harris).

Public uncertainty may have to do with a weak understanding of “certification,” which the polling questions do not define well. Morning Consult does not define re/decertification at all. Suffolk/USA Today and Harvard/Harris define withdrawal/decertification as putting the Iran deal in Congress’ hands without mentioning its uncertain fate there. Harvard/Harris question on renegotiation furthermore suggests that Iran is not living up to its end of the bargain. This highly leading question precedes the one on decertification, casting doubt on its findings. (Morning ConsultHarvard/Harris).

Suffolk/USA Today and Morning Consult also demonstrate a substantial knowledge gap—39% in Morning Consult have no knowledge or opinion, and 24% in Suffolk/USA Today are undecided on the issue. (Suffolk/USA TodayMorning Consult). These are high percentages of people self-reporting a lack of knowledge or opinion: respondents typically under-report the degree to which they don’t understand an issue.

This knowledge gap provides an opportunity for advocates to define what decertification is and what it would mean for the deal.

Iran as a Threat

A recent CNN/SRSS poll suggests that a strong majority of Americans (69%) consider Iran a serious threat. Only 30%, however, consider Iran a “very serious threat,” a 19-point decline since the start of the Iran deal.

Recent Morning Consult data also suggests that only 2% of registered voters consider Iran the “greatest threat” to US national security, with far more considering North Korea the greatest threat (50%), followed by ISIS (18%), Russia (14%), and China (6%). Likewise, only 4% consider Iran the “greatest immediate threat” in a recent NBC/SurveyMonkey poll. (CNN/SRSSMorning ConsultNBC/SurveyMonkey).

A 44% plurality in the Economist/YouGov poll nonetheless view Iran as an enemy of the United States, and 32% as unfriendly. NBC/SurveyMonkey finds a similar overall proportion, but in reverse—33% consider Iran an enemy and 48% unfriendly. (Economist/YouGovNBC/SurveyMonkey).

Americans have considered Iran an enemy, or a threat, or unfriendly for decades. This opinion is deeply entrenched and unlikely to reverse in the short term.

Reprinted, with permission, from Rethink Media. Photo: Veterans for Peace.

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  1. Polls and demonstrations have no standing in the U.S. and the Congress is totally bought by Israel. Many of us demonstrated in the streets against the Iraq fiasco fifteen years ago and it had no effect. The CIA has even come up with a phony document that Iran supported al-Qaeda prior to 9/11, just like with Iraq. The difference now is that (compared to Iraq) Iran is stronger and the US is weaker.

  2. @DonBacon, completely agree with you except I question your last sentence! I’m not sure if that is the case? I believe the issue of strength is being exaggerated by Israel, the media, the US congress or all the above to keep the public misinformed so the public in return keeps their pressure on President or state Department to maintain status quo!

  3. “A recent CNN/SRSS poll suggests that a strong majority of Americans (69%) consider Iran a serious threat. ” With the MSM all of a mind, this is not surprising. If the facts about Israel were correctly reported, I do not think the public with give full-throated support as they seem to, and Iran’s history of NO attacks on others over centuries, plus the damage done to Iran by the USA/Israel may give them cause for concern if that were widely publicised instead of hidden.

  4. It would be a good thing if the American public knew that Iran is the enemy of al-Qaeda and Isis, and that Iran opposed the foolish American decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

  5. @MA
    The US only attacks defenseless countries but Iran is target-rich in a counter-attack. Iran’s missile targets would include: ships in the Gulf and offshore, US bases in the Gulf area with 40,000 personnel and dependents, and other bases in Iraq Syria and Afghanistan. Plus Iran’s ally Hezbollah has thousands of missiles pointed at Israeli cities. Any war to be successful must have a ground component, the US is weak there against Iran and the US hasn’t won a war in many years. Mentally Iran would be much stringer in its own defense than the US would be in a phony war “to keep America free” or some-such nonsense. The recent news about a phony document tying Iran to al Qaeda will encourage action against the Joint Agreement, but it is not sufficient as a reason to attack Iran.

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