WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.K., U.S., and EU did not enjoy much approval in Iran even before they tightened sanctions there, escalating tensions. Nine percent of Iranians approved of U.K. and U.S. leadership when Gallup surveyed in February and March 2011 and not many more approved of the EU's leadership (12%). Iranians were just as unlikely to approve of the leadership of Germany (11%) and Russia (13%), but they are more approving of key trade partners China (18%) and Turkey (24%).
Iranians were most likely to disapprove of the leadership of the U.S. (65%) and the U.K. (62%), the countries with the stiffest sanctions imposed against Iran. Disapproval of trade partners was lower, but in every case, Iranians were still more likely to disapprove than approve, and at least one in four Iranians didn't know or refused to voice an opinion.
Tensions between Iran and Europe reignited this week after Iranian students attacked the British embassy in Tehran to protest new sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors. The U.K. withdrew its diplomats in response and the EU restricted the assets and travel of 180 Iranian officials and companies. The U.S. Senate Friday approved stricter sanctions against Iran's central bank. Russia and China cautioned against aggravating Iran, and Turkey expressed worry for its own security, after Iran threatened to hit NATO's missile shield if provoked.
While Iranians' approval of the leadership of all these countries and the EU is relatively low, the most educated Iranians are more likely to approve than less educated Iranians, regardless of income. Approval of leadership of the U.K., the U.S., Germany, and the EU at least triples among those Iranians with four years of education beyond high school. The increase is similar for Russia and China and the percentage still more than doubles in Turkey.
Younger Iranians tend to approve of the leadership in the countries measured and the EU more than older Iranians, but this relationship is not as strong as the relationship with education, and ratings are still low. Approval ratings among the oldest Iranians are about half of what they are among the youngest Iranians for nearly all countries except Turkey.
Iranians' dim views of the leadership of key Western powers and their trade partners highlight the difficult situation Iranians are in as their leadership battles diplomatically on the global stage. One in four Iranians are "suffering" in terms of how they rate their lives, and Gallup finds unemployment in Iran to be among the highest in the world. Still, Iranians do not appear to have a high opinion of important global powers. Iranians are the most approving, on a relative basis, of Turkey, but approval is still so low that it is difficult to assess how much clout the country holds in Iranians' eyes.
While more educated and younger Iranians are slightly more approving of the leadership of each of the countries measured and the EU, their approval ratings are too low to find much comfort in. As such, world leaders seeking to pursue diplomacy with Iran should tread carefully as not to further damage their reputations among the Iranian people.
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Results are based on landline telephone interviews conducted from a telephone center outside Iran with 1,003 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Feb. 26-March 30, 2011, in Iran. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.