December 10, 2013

Iran: Key Data Points from the Pew Research Center

There is almost universal opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons among 13 nations surveyed in March 2013.

Majorities in most countries where the question was asked say they oppose a nuclear-armed Iran, including at least six-in-ten in each of the E3+3 countries that form the group negotiating with Iran on the issue: Germany (96%), France (94%), U.S. (93%), Britain (89%), Russia (75%) and China (62%).

A solid majority of Americans say it is important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons even if it means taking military action. Support for such an option is lower in most of the other countries surveyed. There are also global differences on whether tough economic sanctions should be adopted.

The March 2013 survey found that 64% of Americans, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents, supported a military option if necessary. However, a March global survey found deep disagreement around the world among those who oppose a nuclear-armed Iran about resorting to military action, with levels of support varying even among the U.S. and its western European allies. The highest support (68%) for the military option was in Israel.

Publics differ when it comes to the use of economic sanctions to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms, according to the March 2013 survey.

Roughly three-quarters or more of those who oppose Iran’s nuclear program in the U.S. (78%), Germany (77%), Britain (75%) and France (73%) approve of tougher economic sanctions to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But only 47% share this view in Russia, while the Chinese are divided on the question (44% favor; 47% oppose).

The U.S, public is skeptical about the multilateral agreement reached in November aimed at freezing parts of Iran’s nuclear program and believe Iran’s leaders are not serious about addressing nuclear concerns.


More Americans disapprove (43%) than approve (32%) of the agreement reached in November between Iran and  six world powers, including the U.S., according to a December 2013 survey. About six-in-ten (58%) of Republicans disapprove compared to 27% of Democrats. About six-in-ten (62%) of Americans overall do not believe Iranian leaders are serious about addressing internal concerns about their nuclear program.

Overall opinions of Iran are largely negative across much of the world.

Majorities in most of 39 countries surveyed in March 2013 have an unfavorable opinion of Iran. Unfavorable opinions of Iran are especially pronounced in Europe, with majorities ranging from 88% in France to 59% in Britain saying they have a negative opinion of Iran. Russia is the one outlier in the region, with only a 49%-plurality expressing an unfavorable view of Iran.

The publics of most countries around the world say the government of Iran does not respect the personal freedoms of its people.

The March 2013 survey found that pluralities to majorities in 28 of 39 countries surveyed say the government of Iran does not respect the personal freedoms of its people, a finding that follows well-publicized crackdowns on opposition leaders and other groups since President Ahmadinejad was returned to office in a controversial 2009 election.

Index to other Key Data Point fact sheets