Majority of Iranians Oppose Development of Nuclear Weapons

March 31, 2020

By: Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy; Amir Farmanesh, CEO, People Analytics (IranPoll)

But Support Iran's Decision to Exceed Enriched Uranium Limits

Both the United States and Iran have been among the countries worst hit by the coronavirus, but neither country has moved away from mutual confrontation. Nationwide surveys conducted by IranPoll this winter – before the spread of the virus and before the US strike against Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani – show that although Iranians say their country should not develop nuclear weapons, they have lost confidence in the nuclear agreement and think that the P5+1 countries (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council including China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany) have not lived up to their obligations. Chicago Council survey results from January 2020 show that a majority of Americans say they would favor rejoining the agreement if Iran restarts its nuclear weapons program.[1]

Key Findings

  • The Iranian public says its government should develop a peaceful nuclear energy program (90%), but not nuclear weapons (59% say it should not).
  • Many Iranians seem to have lost interest in the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries in 2015. Just 42 percent of Iranians approve of the nuclear agreement in the December 2019 poll, down from 76 percent approval in August 2015.
  • Three in four Iranians (75%) support their country's decision to exceed some limits it accepted under the nuclear deal, even if doing so makes it more difficult for P5+1 countries “to allow Iran to benefit from the agreement.”
  • Seven in ten (73%) would reject the outlines of a deal that would require Iran to permanently give up the right to enrichment and to allow international inspections at any time in return for relief from most US sanctions. 
  • More than two-thirds of Iranians think their country should militarily respond if the United States, Saudi Arabia, or Israel were to attack an Iranian nuclear facility.
  • If Iran restarts development toward a nuclear weapon, a January 2020 Chicago Council survey finds that two in three Americans would support the United States rejoining a nuclear agreement with Iran (66%); even larger majorities support diplomacy (85%) and sanctions (77%) to pressure Iran.
  • Majorities of Americans would support cyberattacks against Iranian computer systems, airstrikes against Iranian military facilities, and targeted assassinations if Iran restarts a nuclear weapons program or attacks against US military or diplomatic personnel in the region.

[1] This brief is based on coordinated surveys conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (Chicago, United States) and IranPoll (Toronto, Canada). The details of the data from the Iranian population are available at

Majority of Iranians Oppose Development of Nuclear Weapons

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