Iranian Public Opinion under
 'Maximum Pressure'

October 16, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


Nancy Gallagher, Ebrahim Mohseni, and Clay Ramsay


University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies

Summary of Findings

1.    Current Views of the JCPOA
For the first time, less than half of Iranians approve of the nuclear deal and a majority lacks confidence that the other P5+1 countries besides the U.S. will keep their obligations under the nuclear deal.  About three in five say that Iran should withdraw from the JCPOA.   

A large majority supports the Iranian government’s new policy of gradually exceeding some JCPOA limits and threatening withdrawal unless other P5+1 countries do more to allow Iran to benefit from the agreement. This new policy is significantly more popular than the previous wait-and-see policy.  While a quarter look positively on European efforts to create channels for trade with Iran, a clear majority either thinks such efforts are not really taking place or are too little, too late. 

2.    Attitudes toward Renegotiating the Nuclear Deal
Opposition to renegotiating provisions of the deal that the Trump administrations finds particularly objectionable have hardened since U.S. withdrawal. Three quarters now oppose ending all enrichment under any circumstances.  Fifty-eight percent oppose extending the duration of the JCPOA just to get U.S. nuclear-related sanctions lifted, while thirty percent would extend it if additional sanctions were lifted. The Iranians hardest hit by sanctions are no more supportive of concessions than the population as a whole. 

Potential military action further hardens attitudes. Most think that if the United States were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran should respond by rebuilding and expanding its program.  Diplomatic overtures could get a more positive reception under the right circumstances. Three-quarters of Iranians would approve of their government talking to the Trump administration in a multilateral forum after the United States had returned to the JCPOA. With the United States back in the nuclear deal, a majority would also be open to broader negotiations covering Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missile development, its military activities in the Middle East, and all remaining sanctions on Iran.


Read the full report at the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies.