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Gallup Vault: Reaction to Iran-Contra 30 Years Ago
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Reaction to Iran-Contra 30 Years Ago

Nov. 25, 2016, marks the 30th anniversary of the Iran-Contra affair. On that day in 1986, President Ronald Reagan's attorney general acknowledged publicly that the administration was using profits from the secret sale of arms to Iran to help fund anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua. Soon after, Gallup found a 16-percentage-point drop in Reagan's job approval rating, from 63% in late October to 47% in early December.

Ronald Reagan Job Approval Rating -- Pre/Post Nov. 25, 1986, Iran-Contra Eruption

The December 1986 poll also found 79% of Americans disapproving of the Reagan administration using profits from weapons sales to Iran for military support of the Nicaraguan Contras.

By the time of the Iran-Contra affair, Congress had passed several pieces of legislation aimed at restricting or preventing the administration from providing military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. At the time of the December 1986 poll, 71% of Americans were bothered "a lot" by the fact that the funding provided secretly by the Reagan administration contradicted the will of Congress.

Despite Americans' disagreement with the administration's actions, the early December poll found the vast majority -- 75% -- still approving of Reagan "as a person," down only slightly from 80% three months earlier.

The scandal quickly ballooned, leading to multiple governmental investigations, 11 convictions and ultimately, years later, six presidential pardons. Reagan's job approval rating remained below 50% throughout most of 1987 but gradually recovered in 1988.

Read the original Gallup poll release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

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