Iranian public rejects making more concessions on nuclear deal even with new incentives, new study finds

January 25, 2017

President Donald J. Trump has said he will renegotiate the deal with Iran on its nuclear program, but a large majority of Iranians oppose making more concessions even if Trump offers incentives, according to a new poll conducted by the University of Maryland shortly after Trump’s election. Seven in ten Iranians reject giving up all uranium enrichment even if Trump were to offer to lift more U.S. sanctions on Iran. Six in ten are against lengthening the duration of special limits on Iran’s program in exchange for lifting more sanctions.  


These positions do not appear to be driven by confidence that Iran could resist the Trump administration’s new demands without the United States rejecting the agreement. On the contrary, Iranians are quite pessimistic, with an overwhelming 78 percent saying they lack confidence that the United States will abide by its current commitments—up from 41 percent in September 2015, shortly after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed. Seven in ten say it is likely that under Trump, the United States will refuse to abide by the current terms of the deal. 

Iranians may also oppose making more concessions because they feel the current deal has not produced the promised benefits. Three quarters (74%) say that the JCPOA has not improved the living conditions of the Iranian people at all, even though a year has passed since the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran had fully implemented its commitments under the JCPOA and nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were lifted. 

When asked what has happened with the promised economic benefits, only 6% of Iranians say that they are improving life for average Iranians. Twenty-one percent say that they are only helping Iranians with special connections, another 15% think they are going to Iran’s military and foreign allies, and 51% say that Iran has not received most of the benefits.
“With the upcoming presidential election in Iran, political pressures on Rouhani to resist renegotiation will be strong, especially given the public’s perception that the current deal has failed to deliver promised benefits to date,” commented Nancy Gallagher, director of CISSM.  

With few people enjoying tangible benefits from the deal, enthusiasm for the JCPOA continues to decline. A majority of the Iranian public still approves of the deal (55%), but support has dropped 20 percentage points since the JCPOA was signed. 

Views of the nuclear deal are likely to influence President Rouhani’s chances for re-election in May, since it is considered Rouhani’s most salient accomplishment. Though a majority still holds a favorable view of Rouhani, as views of the nuclear deal have become more negative, the number saying they have a “very favorable” view of him has dropped by more than half, from 61% when the nuclear deal was reached to only 28% today. 

Negative perceptions of the economy are also harming Rouhani’s popularity. Six in ten say the economy is bad. For the first time since Rouhani took office, a majority (51%) now says the economy is getting worse. An overwhelming majority wants Iran’s next president to focus on reducing unemployment and fixing the economy.

The telephone poll of 1,000 Iranians was conducted December 10–24, 2016, for the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland by, an independent, Toronto-based polling organization. The margin of error was +/- 3.2%.

View the summary of findings from this study.

View the questionnaire and trend tables.