June 17, 2013

5 facts about Iran

In something of a surprise, Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran last week, winning 50.71% of the vote in the first round. Within the context of Iran’s political system, dominated as it is by conservative clergy, Rouhani is generally considered relatively centrist and pragmatic. What sort of country will Rouhani inherit when he’s inaugurated as the Islamic Republic’s seventh president on Aug. 3?

1Though most Iranians believe religious figures have a role to play in government, they’re divided on just how big that role should be. A recent Pew Research Center survey found just four-in-ten Iranians say religious figures should have a large influence in political matters; 30% say they should have little or no influence. Younger Iranians, who’ve lived their entire lives under the Islamic Republic established after the 1979 revolution, were less supportive than their elders of a large political role for ┬áreligious figures.

2Iranians also are divided over how prevalent tensions between more-devout and less-devout Muslims are in their society, according to the same survey. More than four-in-ten think such tensions are “very prevalent” (14%) or “moderately prevalent” (30%). But nearly half say such tensions are “not too prevalent” (39%) or “not at all prevalent” (10%).

3Iran is not only the world’s fourth-biggest petroleum producer (4.2 million barrels a day) and exporter (2.3 million barrels a day), but it has the world’s fourth-largest stock of proven crude oil reserves: 151.2 billion barrels,┬átrailing only Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada.

4Rouhani has indicated that improving Iran’s faltering economy will be among his top priorities. Despite its oil wealth, Iran has the poorest economic outlook in the entire Middle East/North Africa region: In its latest global forecast, the IMF projects Iran’s real GDP will fall 1.3% this year, after a 1.9% decline in 2012.


5But Rouhani, Iran’s nuclear negotiator in the mid-2000s, will also have to deal with strong international opposition to his country developing nuclear weapons. When Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project asked publics in 13 countries whether they favored or opposed Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons, majorities in all but two were opposed — including several of its predominantly Muslim neighbors.

Category: 5 Facts

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.