People in Iran and the United States are suspicious of and unfriendly toward one another, but not that far apart on nuclear policy, combating terrorism and other major issues, polling in the two countries found.
The U.S. government considers Iran, an Islamic republic, to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. But the polls, released yesterday, found that Iranians worried about Islamic terrorism: Almost six in 10 Iranians consider the threat of terrorism from extremist Islam important or critical. More than nine in 10 Americans feel that way.
Overwhelming majorities of both Americans and Iranians hold unfavorable opinions of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to the polls. The surveys were conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org in partnership with the conflict-avoidance group Search for Common Ground.
Iran is involved in a dispute with the West over its insistence on enriching nuclear materials despite its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty not to do that without inspections. The United States suspects Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, but Iran says its program is for generating electricity.
The polling found that most Iranians support their government’s position, but also think Iran should obey the nuclear treaty. Americans, too, think enrichment is OK, but only with thorough U.N. inspections.
Majorities in both countries think the United Nations and its International Atomic Energy Agency influence the world positively. More than half the Iranians and nine in 10 Americans said the United Nations should work actively to discourage countries from obtaining nuclear arms, according to the polls.
A majority of Americans and Iranians don’t think that violent conflict between Islam and the West is inevitable. Thirty-six percent of Americans think it is inevitable, and about one Iranian in four feels that way.
Half of Americans said they think of themselves principally as citizens of the United States. Four in five Iranians said their conception of themselves is foremost as a Muslim.
Steven Kull, who directed the surveys, said those responses might not be as significant as they appear. He noted that since 1979, when a general uprising ended the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran has been an Islamic republic.
Questions included some general queries about life in Iran and the Iranian system. On the importance of living in a country “governed by representatives elected by the people,” 68 percent of Iranians and 74 percent of Americans said that was “absolutely important.”
Both groups were negative when queried about the other country. Three out of four Iranians held “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” opinions of the United States; 65 percent were “very unfavorable.”
“The American people” fared somewhat better; nonetheless, half the respondents had a somewhat or very unfavorable view of Americans.