Majority Of Americans Support Iran Nuclear Deal

Good news for the President.


A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Americans support the nuclear deal with Iran, although there remains profound distrust of the Islamic Republic among the American public:

A majority of Americans support the Iran deal despite widespread doubts it will stop the country from developing nuclear weapons, according to newWashington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey finds 56 percent support and 37 percent oppose a deal lifting economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for the nation agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. Support for the final deal is narrower than for the framework agreement announced in March which received nearly 2 to 1 support in a Post-ABC poll, 59 to 31 percent.

The finalization of the Iran deal has not buoyed confidence that it will work, however. More than six in 10 Americans say they are “not so” or “not at all” confident that the deal will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, up slightly since March. Only 6 percent are “very confident” in the deal’s long term success.


Americans are clearly of two minds on Iran, preferring diplomatic efforts to stop the country from developing a nuclear weapon but also expressing deep distrust that Iran can be trusted to abide by any agreement. Thus the public opinion conundrum; 64 percent are not confident the deal will work, yet 56 percent support the agreement.

How to explain it?

First, start with those who do think it will work — the 35 percent who are “very” or “somewhat” confident the deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Among this group, 86 percent support the deal. This is notable, but it’s not enough to sustain majority support.

The key group are the one-fifth of the public who is “not so confident” a deal will work (22 percent). This group supports a deal by a more than 3 to 1 margin (69 to 21 percent), similar to their margin of support for the framework in March.

Support only drops below a majority among those who are “not at all” confident a deal will work (42 percent of the public). Among this group, nearly 7 in 10 oppose the deal (69 percent). The size of this group has grown by eight percentage points since March and is also more unified in its opposition, suggesting the potential for overall support for the agreement to shift going forward.

Perhaps more interesting is the party breakdown in the poll results, which shows that four in ten Republicans support the deal, while only 54% oppose it:

Iran Poll Chart

Another survey conducted by YouGov and Cato found similar results:

A new Cato Institute/YouGov poll finds a solid majority—58%—of Americans supports the main components of the Iran nuclear deal, in which the United States and other countries would ease oil and economic sanctions on Iran for 10-15 years in return for Iran agreeing to stop its nuclear program over that period. Forty percent (40%) oppose such a deal.

Americans also prefer Congress to allow such a deal to go forward (53%) rather than block the agreement (46%). Support declines slightly when the deal is described as an agreement between the “Obama administration and Iran.”

Despite support for the deal, Americans remain skeptical it will stop Iran’s nuclear program. Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans say the agreement is “unlikely” to “stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” including 32% who say it’s “extremely unlikely.” Conversely, 46% believe the deal is likely to achieve its primary goal.

However, Americans are more optimistic the deal will delay Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The poll found 51% of Americans think the deal will likely “delay” Iran’s nuclear development while 47% disagree.

The survey also offered Americans an opportunity to select which one of several policy options would be “most effective” in reducing the likelihood Iran develops nuclear weapons. Doing so found a plurality -40%— think the Iran nuclear agreement would be more effective than taking military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities (23%), imposing new economic sanctions against Iran (23%) or continuing existing sanctions against Iran (12%).


Fully 80% of Democrats support the deal while 62% of Republicans oppose it. Independents side with Democrats with 55% in favor. Democrats are also far more likely to believe the deal will “stop” Iran from developing nuclear weapons (71%) compared to only 22% of Republicans. Even still, Democrats are 30 points less likely than Republicans to say Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would be a disaster (49% v 79%).

Young Americans are also far more supportive of the deal, more likely to believe in its efficacy and less likely to fear Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon compared to older Americans.

Fully 68% of Americans 18-29 support the Iran nuclear deal compared to 50% of those over 65. Furthermore, 6 in 10 millennials say the agreement will stop Iran’s nuclear development compared to only 3 in 10 seniors.

Given the historical animosity that Americans have had for Iran going back to 1979, it’s somewhat surprising I suppose to see majority support for this nuclear  that extends not only to Democrats who be naturally inclined to support the President anyway but also to Independents and even a significant potion of Republicans. The numbers are perhaps even more extraordinary given the fact that both polls indicate that the public is, at the very least, wary of just how successful the deal will be and how distrustful they still are of the regime in Tehran. To some degree, perhaps, these number reflect an ongoing public preference for diplomacy over military action that has its roots in the Iran and Afghan Wars. Whatever the reason, though, the fact that the public supports the deal despite being skeptical about its ultimate success and the trustworthiness of the Iranians is, as Daniel Larison suggests, a sign that support for the deal will hold notwithstanding the expected public relations campaign we are going to see from opponents of the de al over the next two months. Whether that’s true or not is something only time will tell, of course, but so far at least the early returns seem good.

The real test, of course, will be over the next two months as Congress debates the deal, votes on it, and then attempts to override the expected Presidential veto. In the end, whether that veto override attempt succeeds will depend greatly on what Congressional Democrats do. In that regard, the important numbers to look at in polling going forward will be the levels of support for the deal among Democrats and Independents. Republican voters will matter less in the calculation here because Democratic incumbents aren’t going to be expecting them to vote for them anyway. As long as a majority of Democrats and Independents continue to support the deal, then the President should be able to keep his party together and prevent a situation where Democrats peel away and end up supporting a veto override. As I’ve said, such a scenario is unlikely to begin with, and if these poll number hold up then it will be about as close to impossible as you can get.


FILED UNDER: Congress, Middle East, National Security, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    I’m not surprised by public support. GOP/Likud propaganda has been largely blunted by the fact that basically every disinterested expert says it’s a damned good deal.

    It’s also helped by the generally absurd alternatives being put forward. I think people get that it’s either a deal or a war and no one but the GOP and Likud wants a war.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    roots in the Iran and Afghan Wars.

    What!? Did Trump bomb them before he was even nominated? Sorry Doug, typo alert.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: I think the Cotton and Bibi act actually backfired badly on them. It got everybody used to the idea that there’d be a deal, and that the opposition would be motivated by partisanship.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    Thus the public opinion conundrum; 64 percent are not confident the deal will work, yet 56 percent support the agreement.

    What an inane thing to say.

    Consider this analogous situation:
    1. Are you confident that a child safety seat will save your child’s life in the event of a high-speed collision?
    2. Do you support the use of child safety seats?

    It’s perfectly sensible that most people might answer “No” and “Yes” to those two questions. It’s a false dichotomy.

    The correct three questions are:
    1. Do you think this deal will delay or prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons?
    2. Do you think there was any real chance of negotiating a better deal?
    3. Do you think the US had any practical courses of action other than multilateral negotiation?

    Opinions will vary on all three, with the idiots being easily identifiable by their “Yes” answers to #2 and/or #3. It makes sense to support the deal if you answer “No” to both #2 and #3 — even if you think the probability of Iran getting nukes only goes down a little bit, or stays the same but gets delayed.

  5. David M says:

    The public support is probably helped by the fact that we didn’t actually have to give anything up to get the deal. The basic outline is that we end the sanctions that were more painful to Iran, but not painless to the US and Iran agrees to more restrictions on its nuclear program than the NPT requires them to accept.

    Although I can see why the GOP doesn’t like it, as it’s a diplomatic agreement with Iran. They would prefer we either dictate terms to them, or start a war.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Given that most Americans don’t understand the details of the deal — I’m more informed than average, and I don’t think I understand the deal enough to make an objective assessment of it — I think this means one of two things:

    1. Americans really don’t want another war in the Mideast, and are willing to give anyone reasonably plausible who says they can avoid one the benefit of the doubt.

    2. Americans don’t trust Republicans on foreign policy.

    I suspect it is more the first than the second, even if the second makes more sense.

  7. Pete S says:

    @DrDaveT: Your point about delay is important. There was no deal on the table that would eliminate Iran’s ability to get a nuclear weapons forever and it would have been madness to hold out for this goal. But it sounds like that is how the survey questions was worded.

    Too many people are confusing success in negotiating a nuclear deal with getting Iran to stop doing anything we don’t like. That is a different negotiation with different actors.

  8. Thersites says:

    I don’t really understand the logic of the Iran agreement. It’s not so much that Iran can thwart or delay inspections for at least 24 days under the deal (enabling it to hide its cheating). It’s that even if it cheats, meaningful sanctions are unlikely to go into effect – which is why some supporters of the deal cite the possibility of U.S. unilateral military action as a backup.

    But I don’t want a war with Iran, and would much rather have meaningful multilateral sanctions, rather than have to rely on unilateral military action.

    Also, I don’t understand why the Iran deal (which was about nukes) lets Iran have access to dangerous conventional weapons in future years (from Russia, etc.), that are currently off limits due to sanctions.

    See, e.g.:

    1. Ex-IAEA Leader: 24-Day Inspection Delay Will Boost Iranian Nuclear Cheating

    2. Russia: When sanctions on Iran are removed, they’re not snapping back



  9. Ron Beasley says:

    A majority of Americans are not interested in another ME quagmire. That’s what it is all about..

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Multilateral sanctions effectively died the minute the UN Security Council voted to support the treaty. The only sanctions route open now is US-only sanctions, which are pointless.

    However, an Iranian violation will automatically trigger renewed sanctions, and those sanctions would be multilateral. More to the point, a violation would mean US aircraft carriers steaming toward the Persian Gulf. We don’t lose the war option if Iran breaks the deal. If they break the deal we have renewed multilateral sanctions and the military option, all under the aegis of the UN.

    The 24 day thing is dismissed as irrelevant by the IAEA and people who understand the inspections regime. You can’t hide a nuclear bomb program in 24 days. Radioactivity is sticky stuff, hard to scrub off.

  11. Thersites says:

    michael reynolds:

    Michael, your points actually make me even more worried about this deal than before:

    “Multilateral sanctions effectively died the minute the UN Security Council voted to support the treaty.”

    So the treaty killed off the multilateral sanctions that were thwarting Iran’s acquisition of advanced military technology. Multilateral sanctions are the only effective way of dealing with Iran (I fully agree with you that “US-only sanctions . . . are pointless”).

    “The 24 day thing [the fact that inspections can be delayed by at least 24 days, resulting in possible cheating] is dismissed as irrelevant by the IAEA”:

    Well, apparently not the IAEA’s former head:

    See “Ex-IAEA Leader: 24-Day Inspection Delay Will Boost Iranian Nuclear Cheating”

    “We don’t lose the war option if Iran breaks the deal.”

    But the last thing we need is a war with Iran. That would be horrible. Sanctions are a much better alternative.

    “If they break the deal we have renewed multilateral sanctions . . ”

    No, we won’t. Even some supporters of the deal say we won’t. See, e.g., the article “Russia: When sanctions on Iran are removed, they’re not snapping back.”

    The deal kills the multilateral sanctions, in exchange for a deal that might turn out to be toothless. (Of course, there was no guarantee the sanctions would work long-term, either).

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    A majority of Americans are not interested in another ME quagmire. That’s what it is all about..

    Dead on, correct.

  13. David M says:


    Indefinite multilateral sanctions were never an option, something that should have always been obvious.

    The 24 day notice is a maximum for adding new military sites to the existing ones being constantly inspected. Given that Iran originally didn’t want to allow any access to those sites, it seems a reasonable compromise was reached.

  14. Tony W says:

    Republicans have been wasting their outrage on preserving the Confederate Battle Flag* and stopping the Gay Marriage freight train while screaming about Obama coming to get their guns. I like to think maybe a majority of Americans have awakened to the irrationality of our Republican friends and just want them to shut up already.

    * Edit: I’m hearing on Reddit this evening that the Nazi flag is making appearances in certain regions of the American South – they’re just admitting it apparently now.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    GOP/Likud propaganda has been largely blunted by the fact that basically every disinterested expert says it’s a damned good deal.

    You’ve got a lot more faith in the public influence of experts than I do. Basically every disinterested expert says that bailing out the banks saved the US from a depression, that Obamacare won’t work without an individual mandate, and that foreign aid has a minuscule impact on the federal budget. Yet good luck trying to convince the public of any of those things.

    There must be other ways to explain the popularity of the Iran deal.

  16. DrDaveT says:


    So the treaty killed off the multilateral sanctions that were thwarting Iran’s acquisition of advanced military technology.

    As David M notes, you have this backwards. The multilateral sanctions were already going away; this deal means that we still get something, rather than nothing.

    The problem with all critiques of the deal that I’ve seen is that they don’t reflect a realistic assessment of what the situation would have been without this deal. The answer is either “a worse deal” or “no sanctions, and no deal either”.

  17. Matt says:

    @Thersites: There are still restrictions on advanced military equipment and more. All they did was ease sanctions on oil and other common goods.

  18. David M says:


    Also, the sanctions hadn’t stopped Iran from greatly increasing the number of centrifuges they had, as well as their stockpile of nuclear material. They had only halted those activities while they were negotiating with the G5+1 countries, and it had to be assumed that they would start those programs up again if the negotiations were not successful. So holding out indefinitely for a maximalist position carried quite a bit of risk.

  19. Scott F. says:


    I don’t really understand the logic of the Iran agreement.

    You’d have a better understanding of the Iran agreement if you had better sources for information than a pundit who states quite clearly “I’m no expert in nuclear nonproliferation agreements, and I therefore can’t give an informed commentary on the ins and outs of the nuclear agreement with Iran.” as in the Washington Post commentary you link to.

    Better information is readily available. Start with Daniel Larison who Doug links to in the OP. His commentary is strong and informed (unlike Allahpundit) and he shares lots of links to other writers who are experts in nuclear nonproliferation and are thus able to give informed commentary on the ins and outs of the deal.

  20. C. Clavin says:

    although there remains profound distrust of the Islamic Republic

    Well, duh…thats why the agreement requires verification. I suspect Obama and Kerry don’t trust Iran either.
    The key is to keep politicians from pretending they know something the inspectors don’t…as Bush and Cheney did in Iraq.

  21. Tyrell says:

    @Thersites: A flock of B 52’s flying over will straighten out some attitudes.

  22. DrDaveT says:


    A flock of B 52’s flying over will straighten out some attitudes.

    What is it with you mass murderers? How many people are you willing to slaughter in order to not feel ‘disrespected’?

  23. stonetools says:


    The deal kills the multilateral sanctions, in exchange for a deal that might turn out to be toothless

    You missed the point that the ONLY reason Europe , China, and Russia agreed to multilateral sanctions was to force Iran to the negotiating table , in order to do a deal. These parties were not on board for sanctions of indefinite length, and would have suspended sanctions the moment the US walked out of the negotiations, or made demands on Iran that they thought were unreasonable. This is what Cotton, the neocons, and Bibi refused to recognize- this was never a situation where we had the option of telling Iran, “Submit, or you will face perpetual multilateral sanctions.” See here:

    Things changed in 2010 because the Obama administration—aided by the antics of then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—convinced European and Asian governments that the only way to get a diplomatic deal with Tehran was to apply economic pressure first. This global pressure has now isolated Iran from the world economy in a way that American pressure alone never could.

    But if the United States walks away from a deal that European and Asian governments support, those governments will not indefinitely maintain a sanctions regime that lacks domestic political support and costs them money. Last year, a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations warned that “those [in the United States] blocking implementation of a final deal … could endanger the international consensus backing sanctions against Iran.” If Congress torpedoes a deal, the report predicted, Europe might react “by easing its unilateral oil embargo against Iran.” In addition, “China and Russia … may become more sympathetic towards Iran’s position and see an opportunity to further advance their own interests at the expense of the US.”

    China, in particular, has a history of strong economic ties to Iran, a massive thirst for oil, and little interest in doing America’s bidding in the Middle East. If the United States walks away from a deal that Beijing has endorsed, it’s only a matter of time until China imports large quantities of Iranian crude. Chinese impatience is already starting to show. Beijing imported 30 percent more oil from Iran in 2014 than it had in 2013. As the International Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez observes, “The high-water mark of international sanctions is already behind us.”

    In light of that, what we did was to drive a bargain as hard as Iran and our partners let us drive-a deal that would not have happened had we been unreasonable, or were seen as bargaining in bad faith. I would say that all of the opponents of the deal got it wrong because they see it as purely a US -Iran negotiation, instead of a multilateral negotiation in which other countries had a vote.

  24. michael reynolds says:


    1) If we bomb Iran they are certain to try and build a nuke, even if by some miracle we get their whole network.

    2) Which means bombing them again and again, perhaps for years, decades. Nuclear whack-a-mole.

    3) Iran may get frustrated with this and decide they don’t really need a full-fledged nuke, just some conventional explosives with plutonium shrapnel. Set one off on Wall Street, Capitol Hill, Disneyworld, a major port or two, maybe on a boat just off Tel Aviv. Real hard cleaning up after that.

    4) Or. . . here’s a crazy thought. . . we could negotiate a treaty.

    5) Oh, look! We already did that.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    People really, really don’t understand what diplomacy is.

  26. steve says:

    The 24 day thing is not much of a worry as I understand it. Nuclear development sites draw lots of energy, which will be hard to hide with inspectors in country. Also, we have been working at developing better ways of detecting small amounts of radiation and discriminating between the ways that material is being used.


  27. Tyrell says:

    @DrDaveT: I didn’t say to drop any bombs. Just a fly over should get the message across: “Don’t mess with the US”

  28. JohnMcC says:

    @Tyrell: Dear, dear Tyrell. It’s obvious you have never flown over the wreckage of a B-52 and said a silent good-bye to the 5 Americans who had flown it into the path of the SA-2 missiles. If you had that tucked inside your eyelids you would see it pretty nearly every time you closed your eyes. You would know how hard it is it find parachutes in the dark. You would have some idea of what a missile warhead exploding inside the metal tube of a 40-some year-old warplane would be like for those 5 Americans.

    So before you blithely assume that a warplane that is now almost 60 years old flying over a modern anti-aircraft system will really show the wogs who is boss, please look around and think how many Americans you are sentencing to a horrible death falling through the atmosphere from — what? — 60,000 feet while simultaneously burning to death in their flight suits.

    Don’t count on your news sources to mention this. They don’t care. I think you would actually care. Please try to think a little deeper about things than whoever fills your head with stupid ideas like that.

  29. DrDaveT says:


    Just a fly over should get the message across

    Because cowardly brown people are always easily intimidated?

    Why do you assume that Iranians are so much stupider than you are? If “shock and awe” (in which we really did drop lots of bombs) didn’t intimidate the Iraqis, why do you think a few impotent flyovers would intimidate the Iranians?

    (And what makes you think they wouldn’t just shoot down those illegal violations of their airspace? This is not some third-world country with no bullets, T.

    Edit — John McC covered that better than I did.)

  30. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Yeah because that worked so well with drones…

    The air defenses of Iran are leagues ahead of what Iraq had.

    Speaking of Iraq.. Remember the Iraq-Iran war? You know where Iraq used chemical weapons that the USA gave to them? Well Iran never used any chemical or biological weapons in return. Hell Iran gave back land to Iraq that was captured during the fighting…

    We already know that the USA doesn’t give back territory won through war as witnessed in the war with Mexico and other conflicts. We also know that the USA would of responded in kind with chemical weapons as seen in ww1.

    Think of that level of restraint the next time you discuss Iran and nukes.

  31. michael reynolds says:


    Yeah, I think John McC just went all deep on us.

    I would just add that we conducted a hell of a lot of B52 raids over North Vietnam and Vietcong held areas in the south and remind me, who won that war? I have this vague memory that it may have been the little brown people.

  32. Rick DeMent says:


    So the treaty killed off the multilateral sanctions that were thwarting Iran’s acquisition of advanced military technology.

    How naive does one need to be to believe for a moment that any sanctions were thwarting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon? From what I have read they have enough material already, they have the cash. All they really need is the will.

  33. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    People really, really don’t understand what diplomacy is.

    No kidding. We had to go through a workshop here a while ago that included the DISC assessment. Part of the interactive was having playing cards with traits on them and discarding, trading or removing traits we thought fit us and didn’t fit others. When I removed “diplomatic” from the two local opinionated loudmouths’ piles, it triggered a two-day long whinefest over how they are totally diplomatic and I’m just a hater. When they both came back as low C (Compliance/ Contentiousness), they were gloating that “diplomatic” is one of the high end traits (that neither of them ranked on) and I was completely wrong. When I pulled out the dictionary definition of diplomacy, I was told I was “stupid” and it meant “getting what you want in a deal by showing you are right”. When the entire room tried to point out that was wrong and they were currently being very undiplomatic, the two huffed off and didn’t show up for the final day.

    The average person thinks diplomacy is simply being physically present in some sort of negotiation or talks. They don’t get it requires compromise, finesse, patience, knowledge to work….. you know, not being a typical a-hole American? They forget Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick had a Walk Softly part that comes first.

  34. C. Clavin says:

    From Politico:

    “We’re hearing the echoes of some of the same policies and mindset that failed us in the past,” Obama said in Pittsburgh. His loudest critics, he added, are “the same folks who were so quick to go to war in Iraq and said it would take a few months.”
    A few hours later, on the “Daily Show” set in New York City, Obama took another jab at his critics, this time invoking Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney. He mocked those who he said seem to believe that if “you had brought Dick Cheney to the negotiations, everything would be fine.”

  35. Ben Wolf says:

    @Thersites: Sanctions were not preventing Iran from obtaining the necessary materials; they simply increased the cost of doing so. There is nothing the United States can do to prevent development of the infrastructure necessary to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon. We don’t have that kind of power.

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Thersites: I’d like to reinforce what everyone else has been saying: we live in a multilateral world; get used to it.

    It was never a case of our imposing a global sanctions barrier on Iran indefinitely; our only possibility is to bargain with Iran as hard as we can while the barriers are up before the Germans and the Chinese get bored and wander away from the table and start shipping stuff to Iran behind our backs.

    You ARE intelligent enough to realize we don’t have enough power to force everyone else in the rest of the world to maintain sanctions against Iran when they don’t want to, right?

  37. Tillman says:

    @KM: Frankly, “walk softly and carry a big stick” is a better aphorism.

  38. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I would just add that we conducted a hell of a lot of B52 raids over North Vietnam and Vietcong held areas in the south and remind me, who won that war?

    It’s probably worth pointing out that Vietnam-era B-52s dropped dumb bombs only, where you have to drop 1000 of them to have a reasonable chance of hitting your target. Modern B-52s drop JDAMs (GPS-guided) and laser-guided bombs, and hit what they’re aiming at. So we can do a much better job today of destroying all of the stationary stuff — the bridges, buildings, infrastructure. What we can’t do is destroy mobile ground forces from the air — though we keep trying.

  39. Matt says:

    @DrDaveT: Better but not nearly as precise as the average person thinks is possible.

  40. David M says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has pointed this out yet, but part of why this deal is seen as such a success is just how awful the alternatives are. Thinking about the GOP being in charge of dealing with Iran is just too horrific to contemplate, and seeing the mindless opposition from their ignorant* supporters is kind of scary and way too much like the buildup to Iraq in 2002. As a result, the supporters of the deal are having to support it more forcefully than it might deserve. (And rightly so, the GOP can’t be allowed to trash the deal without any pushback.)

    *ignorant, bloodthirsty, foolish, gullible, sociopathic. It’s difficult to decide which adjective is correct.