Almost half of Iranians say they “completely disapprove” of President Hassan Rouhani’s performance to date and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has emerged as the early frontrunner in next year’s presidential election.

Between October 22 and 28, 2020 an independent poll conducted for IranWire saw telephone interviews conducted with a random sample of 1,136 people aged 18 and older living in Iran.

According to the results of this survey, President Rouhani’s current approval rating is the worst that pollsters Stasis have ever analyzed, now standing at just 25 percent among Iranian adults in October 2020 and having decreased by 42 percent since February 2016.

Just 5 percent of Iranians now say they “completely approve” of how Rouhani has handled his job as president, compared to 46 percent of respondents who said they “completely disapprove” – a figure rising to 56 percent among those with college degrees.

Just 44 percent of respondents said they plan to cast a vote in the June 2021 presidential election. A quarter of Iranians said in October 2020 that they do not plan to vote and more than 30 percent remained undecided or declined to answer. 

When broken down by geographic location, only 41 percent of people in urban areas, where 75 percent of the Iranian population resides, said that they planned to vote - and 27 percent affirmed that they would not - compared to 55 percent of people planning to cast a vote in rural areas. An analysis conducted after the previous election has found that turnout is usually at least 10 percent lower than the figure obtained in opinion polls.

Asked if they thought voter participation would help resolve the issues the Islamic Republic of Iran is facing, a total of 55 percent of people said they believed it would and 35 percent disagreed. Some 24 percent of respondents said increased turnout would be "not effective at all" in helping Iran manage the challenges it faces, with the level of total disenchantment rising to 27 and 32 percent respectively among people in urban areas and with college degrees.

Across the board, however, a total of 37 percent of Iranian adults said they would vote for former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next year. The firebrand ex-premier has a 27-point lead over his closest rival, speaker of parliament Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, an ex-chief of police and IRGC Air Force commander who had the support of 10 percent of participants in this survey.

Three other prominent Iranian public figures whose names have surfaced in the context of possible candidacy next year are Saeed Jalili, former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, ex-speaker Ali Larijani, and reformist politician Mohammadreza Aref. These three were all found to be trailing behind in the poll, with 3 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent of support respectively.  

However, support for Ahmadinejad varies significantly between demographic groups. The ex-president had the avowed support of 50 percent of people in rural parts of the country compared to 33 percent in urban areas, and of 49 percent of people without college degrees compared to just 19 percent of those who have completed higher education.


Many Iranians surveyed appeared unconvinced at this stage by any of these prospective candidates, or had yet to make up their minds. Across the board 29 percent of respondents said they were undecided or declined to answer, and 17 percent said they would not vote for any of them.

The poll also asked participants to rate a series of domestic political figures in terms of how much they liked them. This exercise found that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the most favorable political figure in Iran from the list, with 64 percent of participants saying they “very much” or “to an extent” liked him.

Of the other politicians listed, the current head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, came in second with a 51 percent favorability rate. No other politicians were found to be liked by a majority of the would-be electorate. Foreign Minster Javad Zarif and former president Mohammad Khatami tied in the ranking at 45 percent each, followed by Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf at 41 percent, Ali Larijani and President Rouhani at 26 percent. The lowest-ranked figures were Saeed Jalili and Mohammadreza Aref, whom just 18 percent and 14 percent of Iranians respectively said they liked.

The vast majority of Iranians surveyed by Stasis appeared to be disenchanted with the traditional splitting of Iranian politicians into “hardliner” or “reformist” camps. Asked if they felt most aligned to the ideas of Iran’s principlist or reformist groups, just 11 percent of Iranians surveyed declared support for each. Avowed support for reformists has dropped by 14 percent since our last survey in 2016 and two percent fewer Iranians say they support the principlist faction.

In October 2020, 30 percent of participants said they did not know which of these two groups they supported or declined to answer. A full 48 percent said they supported neither.

To explore the findings of the survey in full and broken down by demographic group, click here.

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