Skip to main content

Majority of Iranians Oppose Development of Nuclear Weapons

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Dina Smeltz and Amir Farmanesh
Flag of Iran
David Sandoz

Nationwide surveys conducted by IranPoll show that although Iranians say their country should not develop nuclear weapons, they have lost confidence in the nuclear agreement.

Key Findings

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.

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.

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

About the Authors
Senior Fellow, 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.
Headshot for Dina Smeltz
Amir Farmanesh
CEO, People Analytics (IranPoll)
In his current role, Amir Farmanesh focuses on demystifying people's behaviors and opinions in complex societies and difficult contexts. He previously served as a visiting professor at the University of Toronto, an Edmond Safra fellow with Harvard University, a governance consultant with the World Bank Group, and a policy fellow with the US National Academy of Sciences.