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Americans Support Sanctions on Iran

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Dina Smeltz and Emily Sullivan
The atomic symbol and the Iranian flag

In the event of Iran developing nuclear weapons, the US public wants to tighten economic sanctions, and most support a return to the JCPOA.

Negotiations between Iran and the United States to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement—in which Iran agreed to significant restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief—have continued in fits and starts for 17 months. While hurdles in the process still remain, Iran recently dropped two nonstarters for the United States from their original position, potentially paving the way toward a new agreement. Despite their decreased sense of concern about Iran’s nuclear program, the American public is still willing to take significant steps to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapon, though a majority reject using military options.

"bar chart showing partisan splits on iran policy preferences"

Key Findings

  • If Tehran restarts development of a nuclear weapon, majorities of Americans would support tightening US economic and diplomatic sanctions (79%) and conducting cyberattacks (64%).
  • A majority reject using force to stop Iran’s nuclear development, although the percentages saying they would support air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities (46%) and the use of US troops (38%) are significant.
  • Six in 10 (59%)—including 73 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Independents and 41 percent of Republicans—would support returning to the deal rather than staying out and risking Iran developing a nuclear weapon.
  • Just over half of Americans consider Iran’s nuclear program a critical threat to the United States (53%).

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About the Authors
Vice President, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Dina Smeltz, a polling expert, has more than 25 years of experience designing and fielding international social and political surveys. Prior to joining the Council to lead its annual survey of American attitudes on US foreign policy, she served in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department's Office of Research from 1992 to 2008.
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Emily Sullivan
Former Research Assistant, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
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Emily Sullivan joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2021 and was a research assistant on the Public Opinion team.
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This analysis is based on data from the 2022 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2022 Chicago Council Survey was conducted July 15–August 1, 2022, by Ipsos using its large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, in both English and Spanish among a weighted national sample of 3,106 adults 18 or older living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 1.8 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

Partisan identification is based on how respondents answered a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?”

The 2022 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation.

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