Iranians Losing Confidence in U.S. Compliance with JCPOA

by Jim Lobe

The Iranian public is losing confidence that the United States will abide by the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to the latest in a series of polls undertaken by the Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) at the University of Maryland.

The new poll, the first taken by CISSM since last month’s parliamentary elections, found widespread and broad-based support for President Hassan Rouhani. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that they voted for candidates who support Rouhani, while only 22% said that they voted for his critics.

The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,005 Iranians contacted by telephone between March 3 and March 13. It followed an earlier poll conducted February 15-24 on the eve of the first round of election. The telephone calls, which included some 30 questions, were placed from Toronto. They both had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2%.

Perhaps the most worrisome finding was a decline in enthusiasm for the JCPOA and in public confidence that Washington will live up to its commitments. Although overall approval of the JCPOA remains strong at 71%, the percentage of respondents who said that they “strongly” approved of the deal has fallen steadily from a high of 43% in August (a few weeks after the JCPOA between the P5+1 and Iran was concluded) to 27% in the latest survey.

Confidence that the U.S. will abide by the deal has also slipped—from 45% in a September survey by the Gallup organizations to 29%, according to CISSM. Although 41% of respondents said in September that they were either “not very” or “not at all” confident about Washington’s compliance, the new poll found that figure had risen to 66%. The pollsters did not probe the reasons for the increase in skepticism, although it may relate either to the continuing imposition of sanctions as well as coverage of the election campaign here.

Nonetheless, both the decline in support for the JCPOA and the skepticism about U.S. compliance may account for a decline in enthusiasm for Rouhani, according to CISSM. Although his favorability rating remains extraordinarily high—84% in the current poll—those respondents who say they have a “very favorable” view of the president have fallen from 61% last August to 40% this month.

This decline may also be related to views of the economy, according to CISSM’s analysis. In a poll taken last May, 54% agreed with the proposition that the country’s economic situation was good. Only 46% say that now. At the same time, 52% are optimistic that the economy is improving, as opposed to a third who said it is it is getting worse.

Consistent with Rouhani’s view, a large majority (64%) said that they favored increasing economic engagement with western countries. That included 54% of self-described critics of Rouhani. Nonetheless, a larger number (58%) continue to put a higher priority on achieving economic self-sufficiency—a quest repeatedly stressed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—than increasing trade with other countries, which is seen as a priority by only 36% of Iranians.

Many of the questions directed at respondents were designed to probe their identification with various political tendencies that will be represented in the new parliament. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said that they actually cast ballots in the election.

As expected, support for Rouhani was concentrated mainly among those who voted for Reformist and independent candidates, although 50% of respondents who voted for candidates from the conservative Principlist group said that they supported the president. Thirty-three percent of respondents said that they voted for candidates they believed were Reformist, 35% said that they voted for those they believed were Principlists, and 24% said that they voted for independents.

Sixty-one percent of pro-Principlist voters, 81% of pro-Reformist voters, and 71% of voters for independents said that they supported the JCPOA.

As to the election itself, 44% said that they considered it “very free and fair,” while another 39% said that they were “somewhat” free and fair. Asked about their satisfaction with the range of candidates they were able to vote for— the Guardian Council disqualified about 45% of the 12,000 candidates who filed to run for office—31% said that they were “very satisfied,” 39% said they were “somewhat satisfied,” and 17% expressed dissatisfaction.

The survey found majority support for Iran’s increasing its assistance to groups fighting the Islamic State (63%) and to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (51%). The poll also found strong support (86.5%) for collaborating with other countries to end the civil war in Syria, although only 46% said that they approved of Iran’s collaborating with the U.S. in helping the Iraqi government in fighting the Islamic State. In August, 58% favored such cooperation.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Can one blame the Iranians for losing confidence in U.S. compliance with JCPOA? Only a day after JCPOA “Implementation Day”, the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran on the excuse that Iran had tested some missiles. The U.N. Security Council calls on Iran not to develop ballistic missiles capable of nuclear warheads, which Iran does not possess. Iranian missiles have much shorter ranges than various American-supplied Israeli missiles, which are capable of nuclear warheads.

    The U.S. Administration has failed to resolve persistent ambiguities with the U.S. sanctions relief. As a result, major foreign banks cannot handle transactions involving Iran, frustrating the provisions of the JCPOA.

    Practically all presidential candidates, with the honorable exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, devoted the bulk of their speeches at AIPAC conference to denouncing Iran and engaging in a race to see who could find the strongest and vilest anti-Iranian comments, while declaring their undying devotion to Israel. Most Republican candidates promised to tear JCPOA to shreds on the first day that they enter the White House.

    In a bizarre ruling, a judge who had ruled that Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity for 9/11 and could not be sued for it, ruled that Iran had been implicated in 9/11 because a few Al Qaeda members fleeting from Afghanistan had passed through Iran, and fined Iranian government $10.5 billion.

    These are just a few instances of U.S. behavior towards Iran since the “Implementation” of JCPOA. Iranians should be very naïve to think otherwise

  2. Farhang Jahanpour has pretty much said it all. Anyone outside the borders of the US who’s watching these primaries wouldn’t put money on America’s ability to honour the JCPOA.

    The US doesn’t have a government; it has a madhouse, and the inmates are running it.

  3. The last fall while visiting Iran, majority of the everyday people that I talked to felt very strongly about Rouhani, president of Iran, being on the right track on resolving the nuclear dispute with the 5+1 nations. At the same time all those people were concerned about the strong possibility of the JCPOA agreement becoming a black eye for Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif internally! When they were asked why they feel that way almost unanimously said that they suspect the US was not going to honor its own signature on the signed legal JCOPA agreement! I was very surprised to hear those comments from the average people on street but I’m even more surprised now that how well they understood the US international policies and politics! It is very unfortunate that a small sample of Iranians to whom I spoke are being proven right by the US simply by the US renewing some of the old sanctions, legislating new sanctions, threatening to scrap the agreement following the election and sending very mixed signals to the European banks about their dealings with Iran financially.
    I finish my words with wishing Rouhani and Zarif the best of luck!

  4. “What is happening is significant: for whatever motive, the US Treasury is busy emptying much of the JCPOA sanctions relief of any real substance (and their motive is something which deserves careful attention). The Supreme Leader also noted that Iran is experiencing difficulties in repatriating its formerly frozen, external funds.” (Alistair Crooke at Conflicts Forum)

    How much more of this is Iran prepared to put up with?

  5. And Americans are being challenged by the neo con and the Neo conn infested mind set to find out what America got from this deal. Nada .That’s what they say to each other . And then they say among themselves ” America is good but dont take it as evidence of weakness “.
    Someone faltering in the chance of re-election or election ,then take this misunderestimated stupidity one notch above and promise the Americans that misuse of their trust could not go unpunished – we are going to war.

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