Iranian public attitudes towards their country’s nuclear energy program

One thing that’s often left out in the debate over Iran’s nuclear energy program is the wishes of the Iranian people. Below is an overview of surveys that have been carried to gauge the level of public support for Iran’s pursuit of atomic energy.
The findings of the polls, conducted since 2006, indicate two main trends.
First, an outright majority of Iranians consistently back their country’s pursuit of an atomic energy program.
Second, an outright majority of Iranians back their country’s pursuit of an atomic energy program regardless of the imposition of economic sanctions. The ratio of Iranians who expressed support for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy even in the case of economic sanctions in 2006, before the first UN Security Council sanctions were imposed, corresponds with the level of public support seen after seven years of increasing penalties.
Below are the results of surveys conducted by both Iranian and Western polling institutes in relation to public support for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy.

Iran nuclear polls

A poll conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency (ISPA) in February 2006 indicated that 85.4 percent of Iranians supported their country’s nuclear energy program. 64 percent of poll respondents said they’d back Iran’s pursuit of atomic energy, even if economic sanctions were imposed. The survey was conducted ten months before the first round of UN Security Council sanctions on Iran was imposed.

According to surveys published in August 2008 by Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT) and World Public Opinion (WPO), 62 percent of Iranian respondents supported Iran having “a full fuel cycle nuclear energy program”.

TFT found that 89 percent of Iranians favored (including 78 percent who strongly favored) “the Iranian government developing nuclear energy.”

WPO found that 90 percent of Iranians believed that it was important (including 81 percent very important) for Iran “to have a full fuel cycle nuclear program”.

According to a poll conducted by the Rand Corporation in December 2009, 87 percent of Iranians strongly favored the development of nuclear energy for civil use. Only three percent of respondents strongly opposed Iran’s development of a nuclear energy program. In addition, 98 percent of Iranians stated that the possession of nuclear energy is a national right.

According to a 2012 poll conducted by a researcher at the University of Maryland, 85 percent of Iranians believed it is very important for them to have a civil nuclear energy program.

The poll was conducted between September 29th 2012 and October 11th 2012. Respondents were contacted via the phone and came from both rural and urban areas of Iran. The sample size was 1,110 respondents and the margin of error was three percent.

In a Gallup poll conducted between December 16th 2011 and January 10th 2012, 57 percent of Iranians said they supported the development of Iran’s nuclear energy capabilities.

  • The latest Gallup poll in Iran was conducted between May 24th and June 6th 2013. In an article on the outcome of this survey, published on November 6th 2013, Gallup noted that “despite the perceived economic toll, two in three (68%) Iranians say their country should continue to develop nuclear power despite the scale of sanctions against Iran.” This result is particularly notable as “more than four in five (85%) in Iran now say international sanctions have hurt their own livelihoods, including 50% who say they have been hurt a great deal”, according to Gallup.
    Gallup argues that “this higher support in the face of international pressure highlights the role Iranian nationalism plays in the nuclear standoff with the West.”

  • A Gallup poll conducted between December 26th 2012 and January 10th 2013 indicated that 63 percent of Iranians think their government should continue efforts to develop nuclear capabilities. The poll based its results on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults throughout Iran.