Six years on from Iran’s controversial 2009 presidential election, a poll conducted by Information and Public Opinion Solutions LLC (iPOS) has found that the Iranian public is split on a number of issues regarding government responsibility, fraud, and the right to protest. iPOS conducted the poll in June 2015 to determine the legacy of the Green Movement and its impact on public opinion and attitudes today.
Fifty-nine percent of those polled believed the results were accurate and that that no fraudulent activity took place, whereas 19 percent accused the government of rigging the election, and a further 22 percent answered “I don’t know” when asked whether they believed the election outcome was the result of fraud.
The public was also split over the question of street demonstrations, and whether such actions are appropriate. Thirty-nine percent approved of demonstrations, while 40 percent of those polled disapproved. When people were asked whether they favored or opposed the way police react to street protests, 40 percent said police reaction is justified, while 35 percent said they oppose the way police respond to protest.
Legitimacy of the 2009 Presidential Election
Fifty-nine percent of Iranians said the 2009 election was not marred by fraud, while 19 percent view the government as culpable for what they regard as a fraudulent election. Twenty-two percent register alternative responses, including “I don’t know”, “I have no idea,” and other options.
Responses varied depending on individuals’ level of education, location (urban or rural areas), and according to the Human Development Index (HDI) — which measures well-being across a number of different variables such as education, income, and health — for the province in which they reside. Respondents who had a higher level of education, were located in an urban area, or resided in a province with a higher HDI were more likely to say that the 2009 presidential election was marred by fraud.
According to the poll, 89 percent of respondents aged 24 or over said they voted in the 2009 presidential election, very close to the official government figure of 85 percent.
The Right to Demonstrate
The public was split over whether or not citizens should be allowed to protest in the streets, and whether this is an appropriate line of action. Thirty-nine percent of those polled approve of such protests, while 40 percent disapprove. Five percent said it depends on laws and regulations. When asked about the right to protest, 12 percent chose other options, including “I don’t know.”
When disaggregating respondents’ answers using demographic variables (age, gender, location, and the HDI of the province in which they reside), those respondents who had a higher level of education and were located in urban areas were more likely to support street protests.
When respondents were asked about whether they were in favor of or objected to the way police reacted to street protests, 40 percent said police reaction was justified, while 35 percent said it was unjustified. Two percent believed it depended on laws and regulations and 23 percent said “I don’t know,” “I have no idea.” or chose other options.
The data produced by the survey indicated that the approval of the right to demonstrate was statistically significantly different among those people located in urban areas and who had a higher than standard education.
A majority of Iranians said that those who protested on the streets after the 2009 presidential election were either ordinary people or students and young people, assessed at 41 percent and 21 percent respectively. On the other hand, just six percent believed that the protesters had been influenced by foreign countries, or that they planned to subvert the regime. Nine percent responded that wealthy citizens formed the greatest number of protesters. Twenty-three percent chose other options, including “I don’t know.”
When asked about the protesters and their backgrounds and ages, respondents were markedly split according to gender, level of education and location (urban or rural areas).
Green Movement vs. Sedition
The government faced fierce critcism following the 2009 presidential election, and citizens define the protest movement in different ways depending on their perspective. Those who opposed the government referred to the protest movement as "the Green Movement," but the government and its supporters viewed the actions of protesters as unpatriotic and divisive, referring to the post-election events as “the Sedition.”
Those surveyed were asked which of the two names or labels best describes what happened after the election. Respondents were evenly split: 28 percent chose “Sedition” and 28 percent chose “Green Movement.” Nine percent said neither of the two labels is accurate, and four percent believed that both terms legitimately describe what happened following the 2009 election. Thirty-one percent chose other options, including “I don’t know.”
Future of the Green Movement Leaders: Freedom, Trial or House Arrest?
Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest since February 2011. Only 31 percent of those polled were aware of this fact.
Along with the right to protest, the poll addressed another contentious issue — whether or not the Green Movement leaders deserve to be under house arrest. Citizens were offered three options or responses regarding the question: 1) the leaders should face prosecution for their actions after the election; 2) the leaders have the right to defend themselves publicly, and that any charges against them should be proven in a court of law; or 3) authorities are entitled to hold the Green Movement leaders under house arrest without charging them, a view held by the current government.
Survey participants who had not been aware that the leaders were currently under house arrest were presented with this fact before being asked to choose one of the three options above.
Twenty-one percent of those polled believed that the government should free the leaders immediately. Nineteen percent said the Green Movement leaders should be asked to present evidence of their fraud allegations — Mousavi and Karroubi accuse the government of rigging the 2009 election — in a court of law. Eight percent said that all issues regarding the matter should be decided by Iranian law. Only six percent of those polled believed that keeping the movement leaders under house arrest was the best option.
For this question, there were marked differences apparent across age groups, with those aged 45 and older more likely to say the government should free the leaders.
Possibility of Demonstrations after the 2013 Election
Respondents were asked what should have happened if the 2013 presidential election results had varied greatly from what was expected, as they did in 2009. If they results were unexpected, should citizens have once again taken to the streets to voice their protest?
Forty-eight percent of respondents chose “no,” 24 percent said “yes” or "maybe" and 25 percent chose other options, including “I don’t know.”
- Results are based on telephone interviews conducted from June 6 to June 12, 2015 with a randomly selected sample of 1,048 Iranian adults aged 18 and older who are currently residing in Iran.
- The iPOS proportional two-stage sample includes respondents on landlines and cellular phones representing every province.
- Based on the sample, it can be stated with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is ± 3 percentage points.
- Results are weighted by gender, age and location (urban vs. rural areas) based on the Iranian national census of 2011.
- Native Persian speakers conducted the interviews during daylight hours in Iran. Interviewers were trained prior to conducting the poll.
- The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistical index measuring well-being across a number of different variables such as education, income, and health.
- This poll was conducted for IranWire.