Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Iranian Attitudes Redux

Yesterday, I posted on the new Iran survey conducted for Terror Free Tomorrow. Here is the actual survey, which is far more informative than the Washington Post article would have us believe. Key Findings are below.

Polling Iranian Public Opinion: An Unprecedented Nationwide Survey of Iran

Discontent with the current system of government, the state of Iran's economy, and isolation from the West is widespread throughout Iran. In this context, nuclear weapons are the lowest priority for the Iranian people.

Iranians even overwhelmingly support their government providing full inspections and a guarantee not to develop nuclear weapons in return for trade and assistance from other countries. The popular will to live in a democracy open to the West and the United States, with greater economic opportunity, comes from every region and segment of Iranian society.

These are among the significant findings of the first nationwide public opinion survey of Iran on these issues since President Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005. The survey was conducted by telephone from June 5th to June 18th, 2007, with 1,000 interviews proportionally distributed according to the population covering all 30 provinces of Iran, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The last poll to ask similar controversial questions was conducted in September 2003 by Abbas Abdi inside Iran, who was imprisoned as a result.

Developing nuclear weapons was seen as a very important priority for the Iranian government by only 29% of Iranians. By contrast, 88% of Iranians considered improving the Iranian economy as a very important priority for their government.

Rather, 80% of Iranians favor Iran providing full inspections and a guarantee not to develop or possess nuclear weapons in return for outside aid. A majority of Iranians (52%) also favor the development of nuclear weapons and believe that the people of Iran would live in a safer world if Iran possessed nuclear weapons. However, support for nuclear weapons drops to below 17% if Iran were to receive outside assistance in return for full inspections and a guarantee not to have nuclear weapons.

68% of Iranians also favor normal relations and trade with the United States. In return for normal relations, a majority of Iranians favor recognizing Israel and Palestine as independent states, ending Iranian support for any armed groups inside Iraq, and full transparency by Iran to the United States to ensure there are no Iranian endeavors to develop nuclear weapons.Yet the most significant finding of our survey for Iran's present rulers may be the Iranian people's opposition to their current system of government.

61% of Iranians were willing to tell our pollsters over the phone that they oppose the current Iranian system of government, where the Supreme Leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be chosen or replaced by direct vote of the people.

Even more telling, however, more than 79% of Iranians support a democratic system instead, where the Supreme Leader, along with all leaders, can be chosen and replaced by a free and direct vote of the people.

Only 11% of Iranians said that they would strongly oppose having a political system where all of their leaders, including the Supreme Leader, are chosen by popular election. 80% of Iranians also oppose a return to monarchy.

Iranians across all demographic groups oppose the unelected rule of the Supreme Leader in favor of electing all their leaders. While these views run stronger in Tehran, they are also held across all provinces of Iran, and in both urban and rural areas.

The survey also leaves no doubt that the Iranian economy is the number one issue of concern for Iranians from every age, region, education level and class. 80% think the present economic situation in Iran is fair or poor, and 9 out of every 10 Iranians believe that creating new jobs and curbing inflation should be very important priorities for their government.

Indeed, three-quarters favor Western investment to create more jobs, as well as medical, education and humanitarian assistance from Western countries to Iranian people in need. Trade and political relations with the West were the second highest priority Iranians chose for their government, after improving the Iranian economy. Support for Western relations in general was also much stronger than support for the United States alone.

The survey had other important findings as well:

* A significant minority of Iranians still support the current system of rule by the Supreme Leader as well as certain policies of President Ahmadinejad, ranging from 23% to 34%;

* Almost two-thirds of Iranians support financial assistance to Palestinian opposition groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militias;

* However, only a third consider the Iranian government providing financial support to these groups as very important, as opposed to 47% who think that seeking trade and political relations with Western countries is very important. In contrast, 88% of the public want improvement in their economy to be the top priority of the Iranian government, with developing nuclear weapons last at 29%;

* While nearly two-thirds support Hamas and Hezbollah, 55%of Iranians would also endorse recognizing Israel and Palestine each as separate, independent states, as part of achieving normal relations with the United States;

* 78% of Iranians strongly favor the development of nuclear energy, but only 33% strongly favor nuclear weapons;

* 56% of Iranians stated that President Ahmadinejad has failed to keep his campaign promise to "put oil money on the table of the people themselves;"

* France, the European Union and China were preferred by Iranians to the United States;* Iranians chose normal trade with China and France by a nearly 2 to 1 margin over the United States.

* Similarly, 73% of Iranians would favor a medical humanitarian hospital ship to visit Iran, with that percentage holding steady if the ship comes from China or Europe, but dropping to 42% if the ship is American and only 21% if the ship is Israeli.

No comments: