Poll: Iranians Want Economic Reform, More Engagement With Europe

by Derek Davison

A new IranPoll survey conducted in August finds that Iranians generally support globalization, want to see economic reform inside Iran, and want to improve their economic ties with Europe in particular. They are concerned, however, that U.S. pressure will cause European companies to think twice about doing business in Iran. The results show an Iranian public that seems increasingly optimistic about their economic future under the sanctions relief provided by the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA)—at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump is seriously threatening the deal.

“Globalization” may be a dirty word for many in America, but 62.5 percent of Iranians positively view the term, defined in the survey as “the increased trade between countries in goods, services, and investment.” In particular Iranians are enthusiastic about foreign companies doing business in and with Iran. A huge majority of Iranians—84.6 percent—say that “the growing trade and business ties between Iran and other countries” has been either very or somewhat good for Iran, with 51.1 percent saying that it leads to job creation in Iran and a plurality of 40.4 percent saying that it increases Iranian wages. When it comes to foreign companies opening factories in Iran, 90 percent of Iranians see this as very or somewhat good, though substantially more Iranians (50.4 percent vs. 39.6 percent) are inclined to see it as only somewhat good.

When given a list of foreign countries—the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, China, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey—a majority of Iranians say that they would like to see more companies doing business in Iran from each of those countries save one, the United States. However, even a 49.9 percent plurality would like to see more American companies doing business in Iran.

Iranians seem most keen on attracting more business from Germany (66.1 percent say having more German companies doing business in Iran would benefit Iran “a lot”) and Japan (66.7 percent). They’re considerably more interested in attracting more business activity from those two countries than, for example, from traditional Iranian economic partner China (only 19.1 percent say more Chinese economic activity would benefit Iran “a lot”). These results mirror Iranian responses when asked about the quality of products produced in those countries—68.7 percent and 61.6 percent say Germany and Japan, respectively, produce “very good” products, compared to only 5.4 percent who say the same of Chinese goods.

In the long run, Iranians seem optimistic about their economic future, with 56.6 percent saying that today’s children will be better off than their parents. In the short term, Iranians are cautiously hopeful about the prospects for job creation over the next year, with a plurality of 49.5 percent saying that they think Iranian companies will create either a lot or some new jobs. They’re less optimistic about the possibility of foreign companies creating new jobs in Iran over the next year. A plurality of 48.8 percent predict they’ll create very few or almost no new jobs.

This pessimism may be related to Iranian views of the JCPOA, or more specifically to their views of America’s approach to the JCPOA. A clear majority—61.7 percent—approve of the nuclear accord, and majorities believe that in areas like job creation, foreign investment, and the availability of foreign goods in Iran, the situation in Iran has either stayed the same or gotten worse since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. Moreover, only 20.8 percent are very or somewhat confident that the United States will live up to its obligations under the deal. A majority, 57 percent, believe that European countries will live up to their obligations, but 70 percent believe that foreign companies “are moving slower than they could” in terms of engaging with Iran, and of that group 76.7 percent believe that the biggest reason for that is “pressure or fear of the United States.”

All available evidence from the past several weeks has pointed toward President Trump electing to decertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA in October. Decertification would give Congress a chance to re-impose sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which would risk collapsing the agreement altogether. When asked by reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session on Monday whether he would withdraw from the accord, Trump said, “You’ll see very soon. You’ll be seeing very soon…We’re talking about plans constantly.”

Photo: Shopping for gold in Tabriz.

Derek Davison

Derek Davison is an analyst covering U.S. foreign policy and international affairs and the writer/editor of the newsletter Foreign Exchanges. His writing has appeared at LobeLog, Jacobin, and Foreign Policy in Focus.



  1. Iran has signed a $4.8 billion deal with a consortium led by French oil company Total to develop its giant South Pars gas field. Boeing is having difficulty with financial curbs on US businesses, but Europe is not so shackled. Airbus very quickly reached an agreement to sell 118 planes spanning its full product lineup to Iranian flag carrier Iran Air. PSA – the maker of Peugeots and Citroens – and Renault have pushed hard into Iran. The French companies, unlike their German, American and Japanese competitors, do not have manufacturing or sales operations in the United States. Also China has reportedly opened a $10 Billion credit line for Iran.
    Will the US be able to use its worldwide banking control to reel in these efforts and others? is the question. Iran has to be punished for its success in the Middle East, is the Washington view.

  2. @DonBacon, you’re absolutely correct in saying that Iran is being punished for its success in the ME! The US message is loud and clear to Iran’s neighbors, telling them DO NOT get any idea of following the Iranians resistance style against the west!

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