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Americans Overwhelmingly See Iran as Enemy or Unfriendly

Americans Overwhelmingly See Iran as Enemy or Unfriendly

by Art Swift

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that he will pursue diplomatic options with Iran on its nuclear program. Despite the possibility of a thaw in relations, close to half of Americans, 45%, consider Iran an enemy and 38% "unfriendly," slightly more than thought so in 2000.

Trend: Americans' Views of Iran as Ally or Enemy

For the past several weeks, Iran has been making overtures toward the United States for a new path of diplomacy. Yet Gallup's latest polling on Iran, conducted Sept. 15-16, shows that Americans remain largely distrusting of the country.

This sentiment has been echoed in other Gallup polls for more than a generation. In a February 2012 poll, Americans named Iran as "the greatest enemy of the United States," more than said this about China or North Korea.

Americans' negative views of Iran in the Sept. 15-16 poll are also consistent with Gallup's historical favorability trends since the 1980s. In March 1989, 89% of Americans viewed Iran unfavorably, and in February 2013 that total unfavorable rating was 87%.

Although large majorities of all major U.S. partisan groups are mainly negative about Iran's relationship with the U.S., Republicans (60%) are much more likely than Democrats (37%) and independents (42%) to consider Iran an enemy, meaning Republicans may be the most alarmed by Obama's diplomatic initiative. Democrats and independents are slightly more likely than Republicans to describe Iran as "unfriendly," and are more likely to say Iran is "friendly." Still, at 13% each, relatively few in either group view Iran positively, as either friendly or an ally.

Views of Iran by Political Party, September 2013

Bottom Line

Despite Americans' overwhelmingly dim view of U.S.-Iranian relations, a 2009 Gallup poll found Americans open to diplomacy with Iran. The Obama administration may be counting on a continuation of that mindset as Secretary of State John Kerry embarks on negotiations with the Iranian government. Successful negotiations may bolster positive opinions of Iran, sentiments that have been consistently low since at least a decade after the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 15-16, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,010 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for 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 details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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