Iran Nuclear Agreement Meets With Public Skepticism
Little Confidence in Iran’s Leaders to Live Up to Deal
More Americans disapprove than approve of the deal struck last week by the U.S., Iran and five other nations to limit Iran’s nuclear program: Among the 79% of Americans who have heard about the agreement, just 38% approve, while 48% disapprove (14% do not offer an opinion).
There is widespread skepticism about aspects of the agreement, particularly the Iranian leadership’s commitment to the terms of the deal: Most of those familiar with the agreement say they have not too much (35%) or no confidence at all (38%) that Iran’s leaders will uphold their side of the agreement. And while there is greater confidence in the U.S. and international agencies’ ability to monitor Iran’s compliance, 54% are not too (33%) or not at all (21%) confident, while a smaller share (45%) express at least a fair amount of confidence in their ability.
Views about the agreement’s effect on U.S.-Iranian relations also are split: Though a plurality (42%) of those who have heard about the deal say there will be little change, about as many think relations between the two nations will worsen (28%) as think they will improve (25%) as a result of agreement.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted July 14-20 among 2,002 adults, including 1,672 who have heard about the agreement, finds deep partisan divides. Among those who are familiar with the agreement, three-quarters of Republicans (75%) disapprove of it, while just 14% approve. Opposition is particularly pronounced among conservative Republicans, with 82% disapproving of the agreement. Among moderate and liberal Republicans a smaller majority (58%) disapproves.
Democratic support for the agreement outweighs opposition by more than two-to-one (59% approve, 25% disapprove). And liberal Democrats are particularly supportive: 74% approve of the deal. Conservative and moderate Democrats who are familiar with the agreement support it by a considerably narrower margin (48% approve, 33% disapprove).
While those under 50 are divided in their views (42% approve, 41% disapprove), those 50 and older express more disapproval (55%) than approval (34%).
Support for the nuclear agreement is also associated with education: Those with post-graduate degrees are the only group expressing more support than opposition to the deal (55% approve, 32% disapprove), while those with college degrees are divided, and there is more opposition than support among those without college degrees.
Most Skeptical That Iran Will Stick to Terms of Agreement
Before the nuclear agreement was announced on July 14, there was modest support for direct negotiations between the United States and Iran over the country’s nuclear program. However, that was accompanied by a deep distrust of Iranian leaders. In March, 63% of the public said that Iran’s leaders were “not serious” about addressing international concerns over their country’s nuclear enrichment program.
In the wake of the agreement, just 26% of those who have heard at least a little about the agreement say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence that Iran’s leaders will abide by its terms. About a third (35%) do not have much confidence, while 38% say they have no confidence at all.
Republicans, in particular, are dubious: 60% say they have no confidence at all that Iran will uphold its side of the agreement; another 31% have little confidence. And while 44% of Democrats express some confidence in the Iranian leaders to honor the agreement, 54% do not.
Among those who approve of the nuclear agreement, 50% say they have at least a fair amount of confidence that Iran’s leaders will uphold their end of the agreement; about as many (48%) say they have little or no confidence. Among those who disapprove, just 8% express at least a fair amount of confidence in Iranian leaders.
Agreement Supporters Confident in U.S., International Oversight
While there is greater confidence in the United States and international agencies’ ability to monitor Iran’s compliance than in the Iranian leadership’s intentions, still, just 45% say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in this monitoring, while somewhat more (54%) express little or no confidence.
Three-quarters (75%) of those who approve of the agreement say they are at least fairly confident that the U.S. and its allies can successfully monitor Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement, a view held by just 21% of those who disapprove of the deal.
And, as with views of the overall agreement, there are substantial partisan divides: Just 22% of Republicans say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the international monitoring of Iran’s compliance, compared with 69% of Democrats.
Few Anticipate Agreement Will Lead to Better U.S.-Iranian Relations
A 42% plurality of those who have heard about the agreement over Iran’s nuclear program say they expect relations between the U.S. and Iran to change little if it is implemented; 28% expect that relations will worsen, and about as many (25%) predict they will improve.
Though about four-in-ten of those in all educational groups expect little change in the two countries’ relationship, those with post-graduate degrees are more likely than those with less education to expect an improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations in the future (35% say this, compared with a quarter or fewer of those without graduate degrees).
Optimism about U.S.-Iranian relations in the wake of the agreement is most pronounced among supporters of the deal: 49% anticipate relations will get better, while 42% say they will stay about the same; just 6% say they will get worse. By comparison, half (50%) of those who disapprove of the deal think relations will worsen, while 42% say they will stay the same.
Consistent with the partisan divide in support for the deal, most Republicans say the agreement’s implementation will either have little (40%) or a negative (46%) impact on U.S.-Iranian relations, while most Democrats say the deal will have either a positive (40%) or no (40%) effect. Independent opinions largely mirror overall views: A 45% plurality say there will be little change in relations between the two nations, although independents are somewhat more likely to say the agreement will worsen (29%), rather than improve (21%), relations.
Most Americans Familiar With Iran Agreement
Older Americans are more likely to have heard about the agreement than younger people: 86% of those 65 and older have heard about the agreement, including about half (49%) who say they have heard a lot about it. By comparison, 64% of adults under 30 have heard about the agreement, including just 21% who say they have heard a lot about it.
Education is also strongly associated with awareness of the agreement: While 94% of those with post-graduate degrees have heard about the agreement (including 58% who say they have heard a lot), that compares with 71% of those who have not attended college (including only 24% who say they have heard a lot).
More Republicans (84%) than Democrats or independents (78% each) say they have heard about the agreement. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are about equally likely to have heard of the agreement.
Most Americans Continue to Say Diplomacy is Best Way to Ensure Peace
In general, the public continues to say that good diplomacy, rather than military strength, is the best way to ensure peace. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) say good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace; 30% say the best way to ensure peace is through military strength. These views have changed only modestly since the question was first asked two decades ago.
Younger people are far more likely than older Americans to view good diplomacy as the best path to peace. Majorities of those under 30 (75%) and 30-49 (62%) say this, compared with about half of those 50-64(50%) and 65 and older (47%).
There continue to be wide partisan and ideological divides on this question: While 72% of Democrats (including 81% of liberal Democrats) say that good diplomacy provides the best path to peace, Republicans are more likely to say military might, rather than diplomacy, is the best way to ensure peace (49% vs. 36%).
Question Wording and Views of the Iran Agreement
One week after the announcement of the Iran agreement, public opinion on the deal varies depending on how the issue is framed. The Pew Research Center question asks people first a general question about their familiarity with the deal: “How much, if anything, have you heard about a recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran, the United States and other nations?” and then asks people “From what you know, do you approve or disapprove of this agreement?” This question format finds that disapproval significantly outweighs approval, both among the public overall (33% approve, 45% disapprove, 22% have no opinion), and among the 79% of the public who have heard about the deal (38% approve, 48% disapprove, 14% have no opinion).
A Washington Post/ABC News survey conducted over approximately the same field period finds significantly more support than opposition to the deal among the overall public (56% support, 37% oppose, 7% have no opinion). This question includes a description of the agreement: “As you may know, the U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?”
The different findings on public views of the Iran nuclear agreement in the Washington Post/ABC News and Pew Research Center surveys highlight how question wording – and the information provided in a question – can impact public opinion, particularly on issues where public views are still being shaped and information levels are relatively low. The Pew Research question, which does not describe the agreement, finds lower levels of support than the Post/ABC News question, which details the intention to monitor Iran’s facilities and raises the possibility of re-imposition of sanctions if Iran does not comply.
In other questions, both the Washington Post/ABC survey and the Pew Research Center survey find substantial public skepticism about the agreement. The Pew Research Center survey asks about confidence in Iran’s leadership to uphold their end of the deal and the ability of the U.S. and international agencies to monitor compliance, finding that majorities are not confident about either. And the Washington Post/ABC News poll asks people how confident they are “that this agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons – very confident, somewhat confident, not so confident or not confident at all,” finding that 64% are not confident in this.
Though levels of support for the agreement differ depending on how the question is asked, both questions find large divides between Democrats and Republicans in approval of the deal, although that division is more pronounced in the Pew Research question than in the Washington Post/ABC News question.