Two years on from Hassan Rouhani’s victory at the polls, what do Iranians think of their president? Do they support the administration, its international diplomatic efforts and promises for economic recovery? Or are they disappointed by Rouhani’s failure to honor some of his electoral commitments, including a more liberal press and respect for human rights? Information and Public Opinion Solutions (iPOS), a company that provides data about Iranian public opinion, asked Iranians their view on Rouhani’s performance. IranWire spoke to its founder and president Ali Herischi about the recent poll.
What are the significant findings of this poll? How does it differ from previous surveys iPOS has conducted?
Tracking polls are very useful and accurate to evaluate the performance of a government. This poll is as important as the last poll. We should look at them as one picture that depicts the issues effecting the presidency of Mr. Rouhani. Our latest poll indicates that Rohani’s administration approval rate is directly related to Iran’s nuclear negotiation success. The trend in our poll confirms this.
The poll shows that Rouhani’s approval rating has gone down since the previous poll in winter 2014, from 58 percent to 48 percent. Can you give some indication why this might be so? What is changing for people? Why has he become less popular?
We conducted our first poll in November 2014. I want to separate our findings from our opinion here. Our findings show that people were hopeful and satisfied that Iran’s negotiations were going in the right direction, in comparison to the past. Basically, Mr. Rouhani was successful in implementing one of his major presidential promises. However, since the negotiation is not concluded yet, and the sanctions are still in place, people are not happy. Our opinion is that Rouhani’s administration focused so much on the nuclear deal that, to an extent, people actually found his administration ineffective. As long as there is no deal, his approval rating will drop.
Based on your research, how do you think Rouhani's allies will perform in the February 2016 parliamentary elections? What are your predictions?
Rouhani’s allies have the same destiny as the president. If there is no deal by the election time, they are going to face strong opposition. I have to say that we have no polling conducted regarding the next parliamentary election, so this is our opinion.
Among the 28 percent of people that expressed "dissatisfaction" with Rouhani’s performance, and the 5 percent that say they are "somewhat dissatisfied,” can you give your view on the reasons for this disapproval? Is it nuclear negotiations or other international relations issues? Domestic policy? The economy?
Major dissatisfaction is related to the bad economy, negotiation deadlock and Iranians’ expectations for reaching a deal. In addition, we should understand that he won the election with about 50 percent of the votes, so he has had opposition from the beginning of his presidency, people who disagree with his politics, internationally and domestically. However, the increase in his disapproval is due to the condition of the country, which has stayed the same since the election. One important finding is that Iranians overwhelmingly support a deal between Iran and the West — therefore, they expect a resolution soon.
Rouhani remains popular among Iran’s older population, and his popularity has fallen among younger people. What do you think this says about voting trends and political affiliation in Iran? Do you think there are certain parts of the country that are more loyal to Rouhani than others?
The last presidential election in Iran was really complex; many factors affected the results. We must study the issues important for different age groups or gender-related issues to be able to answer that. But our opinion is that the young generation is asking for more change in Iran, particularly social and economical improvements. Young Iranians are more effected by government policies because their conditions, socially and economically, are not stable. That’s why when the situation is not positive, and it is not changing to something better, the young generation is not going to be happy with the administration. Rouhani has been unsuccessful in fulfilling young Iranians’ demands, so far. Women, especially in the rural areas, and Iranians aged 59 or older, are his core fans.
Can you say a little bit about Information and Public Opinion Solutions? How was it founded? What is its aim?
Information and Public Opinion Solutions is a private entity formed in the United States. The founders understood the lack of scientifically acceptable information available to the public about Iranian’s opinions and points of view. We thought iPOS could provide valuable data for those interested in Iran’s affairs. Our website, ipos.me, is a great portal to get valuable information about Iran.
Your results are weighted by gender, age and location. Can you say a little about this “weighting”, how it works, and why it’s important?
Samples in each poll should be representative of society, with respect to some variables measured in each survey. In iPOS methodology, age, location, and gender are those variables, which have been weighted to accurately represent that society. This is very common technique in the industry.
Your poll mentions that your interviewers were trained prior to carrying out the survey. Can you say a little bit about this training?
There are two types of training for the interviewers: General Training for the standardized questionnaire’s structure, and Specific Training for each poll prior to the final survey. We make sure our interviewers understand the poll, questions, and sensitivity of each question. We make sure they improve their communication skills to convey trust and receive better answers for each questions. We also review their performance and adjust their performance by considering their previous results. We are very thorough in quality control.
How do the people who take part in the poll respond when you call them? Are they hesitant to talk to the interviewers? Are they pleased to take part? Have any of those polled made comments you weren’t expecting or that you found surprising?
Surprisingly for those who are skeptical of polling in Iran, our drop rate is better than polls in the United States. Based on our training, and diligent questions, we have achieved a very acceptable answer rate. Despite the general idea that people lie, we have faced a very trustworthy population in Iran.
Anything else you'd like to tell the IranWire audience?
We are happy that our findings brought light to certain issues that we had no data for prior to our existence. We are here to provide scientifically acquired data to present Iranians’ point of view. It helps people and social actors in Iran. We are happy to play a role in transforming Iran from an unknown box to a society with trustworthy date available in different fields.
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