A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of Iranians finds that six in 10 favor restoration of diplomatic relations between their country and the United States, a stance that is directly at odds with the position the Iranian government has held for three decades. A similar number favor direct talks.
However, Iranians do not appear to share the international infatuation with Barack Obama. Only 16 percent say that have confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. This is lower than any of the 20 countries polled by WPO on this question in the spring. Despite his recent speech in Cairo, where Obama stressed that he respects Islam, only a quarter of Iranians are convinced he does. And three in four (77%) continue to have an unfavorable view of the United States government.
Even though only 16% have at least some confidence that Obama will do the right thing regarding world affairs, this is up from 6% who felt this way about President Bush. 51% have a favorable view of the American people.
25% refuse to say how they voted in Iran’s recent tumultuous elections. 81% believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran. 71% believe they are free or somewhat free to express controversial opinions, but 58% believe the government has the right to censor media reports that could be destabilizing. 26% trust the Iranian government to ‘do the right thing’ some of the time and 54% trust the government to do so most of the time.
Should we take these findings about the internal Iranian political situation with a grain of salt, considering the fear respondents may have of the Iranian security services?
More interesting findings. Support for attacks on American forces is high, but not as widely held as many would have guessed:
Regarding attacks on US troops in Afghanistan, 26% express approval (16% strongly) while 49% are opposed and 18% have mixed feelings. Support for attacks on troops based in Persian Gulf states is slightly higher, with 32% approving (21% strongly); 41% disapprove, and 13% express mixed feelings.
A substantial number of Iranians favor the United Stated and Iran working together to fight the Taliban, the Sunni Muslim insurgent group in Afghanistan that has long been anathema to Shiite-majority Iran. Asked specifically about the option of ‘Iran cooperating with the US to combat the Taliban operating in Afghanistan near Iran’s border,’ 43% are in favor and 41% opposed. A fairly high number—12%–say they do not know how they feel.