Saturday, April 12, 2008
What Do Iranians Think of Their Own Government?
Iranians largely express satisfaction with their government. Two out of three say that Iran is generally going in the right direction, though a plurality is dissatisfied with the Iranian economy. Half say they trust the government to do what is right most of the time, while another quarter say they trust it at least some of the time. Two-thirds express satisfaction with Iran's relations with the world as a whole. Large majorities approve of how President Ahmadinejad is handling his job at home and his dealings with other countries, though this support is considerably lower among more educated and higher-income Iranians.
About two thirds of Iranians make positive assessments of Iran's government and general direction. Asked, "Generally speaking, do you think things in Iran today are going in the right direction or . . . the wrong direction?" 65 percent say things are moving in the right direction, while 24 percent disagree.
However, Iranians make an exception about the economy. A 49 percent plurality said they were "mostly dissatisfied with Iran's economy," while 36 percent said they were mostly satisfied.
Three in four Iranians say that they trust the government to do what is right at least some of the time. Respondents were asked how much of the time they "trust the national government in Tehran to do what is right." Forty-eight percent said the government could be trusted most of the time, and another 26 percent said it could be trusted some of the time. Just 14 percent answered "rarely" (11%) or "never" (2%).
Two thirds also approve of how President Ahmadinejad is handling his job at home and his dealings with other countries. Sixty-six percent approved "of the way President Ahmadinejad is handling his job as president," while 22 percent disapproved. To probe deeper into these sentiments of support, the study asked questions about "the way President Ahmadinejad has been traveling abroad and speaking about Iran's foreign policy." Sixty-three percent said the president's activities have made "the overall security of Iran" "mostly better"; only 14 percent said this has made Iran's security mostly worse. Similarly, 64 percent said Ahmadinejad's activities had made "other countries' views of Iran" mostly better; 16 percent said his work had made these countries' views worse.
Support for Ahmadinejad is stronger among those with low income and low education, and considerably weaker at the upper end of each scale. Among low-income respondents, 75 percent approved of Ahmadinejad's performance; among high-income respondents, it was 41 percent, with 38 percent disapproving. Among those with less than a high school education, 80 percent approved of Ahmadinejad; among those with some college or more, it was 49 percent, with 35 percent disapproving. These differences suggest that the remarks of many observers, to the effect that Ahmadinejad operates as the Iranian version of a "populist," are not far off the mark.
This article is an excerpt from "Public Opinion in Iran: With Comparisons to American Public Opinion," a WorldPublicOpinion.org Poll conducted in partnership with Search for Common Ground and Knowledge Networks, 7 April 2008. "The poll of Iranians was conducted with a randomly selected sample of 710 Iranian adults, from rural as well as urban areas, January 13-February 9, 2008. The margin of error is +/-3.8 percent. Interviews were conducted in every province of Iran. Professional Iranian interviewers conducted face-to-face interviews in Iranian homes. Within each community, randomly selected for sampling, households were chosen according to international survey methods that are standard for face-to-face interviewing. In some cases, a respondent did not want to be interviewed because the interviewer was of the opposite sex. Interviewers then offered to either reschedule the interview for a time when the male head of household would be present, or to have an interviewer of the same sex visit. The poll questionnaire was developed in consultation with experts on Iran as well as the Iranian polling firm. In addition to the poll, focus groups were conducted in Tehran with representative samples of Iranians" ("Public Opinion in Iran," pp. 3-4). The questionnaire and methodology is available at <worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/apr08/Iran_Apr08_quaire.pdf>. See, also, "Iranians Oppose Producing Nuclear Weapons, Saying It Is Contrary to Islam: But Most Insist on Iran Producing Nuclear Fuel," WorldPublicOpinion.org, 7 April 2008; "Iranians Favor Direct Talks with US on Shared Issues, Mutual Access for Journalists, More Trade," WorldPublicOpinion.org, 7 April 2008; Jim Lobe, "Iranian Public Sees Reduced U.S. Threat," Inter Press Service, 7 April 2008.
I posted a longer excerpt from the same poll in MRZine, which received a number of comments there as well. The excerpt and comments caught the attention of Clay Ramsay (Research Director, Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland), who was responsible for the poll. He wrote the zine and offered to answer readers' questions: mrzine.monthlyreview.org/iran140408.html. If you have questions for him, please click on the link above and ask the questions there.