Washington, DC – Many polls have come out in recent weeks regarding the public’s attitude toward the Iran nuclear deal. While many of these polls show that Americans support the agreement such as those conducted by Public Policy Polling, ABC News/Washington Post, some polls show that Americans oppose the deal such as those conducted by CNN and Pew Research. Why is there such a discrepancy? Which polls should we trust?
White House Principle Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz tweeted “the more information the pollster provided, the more likely respondents supported the deal,” suggesting that those who disapproved of the agreement simply were not fully informed of its implications. Indeed, most polls about the nuclear accord suggest that the more information respondents receive about the deal, the more they are inclined to support it. On the other hand, if they are given little to no information, respondents tend to revert towards partisan signals and/or messaging they receive through media and advertising, which tends to be more negative towards the deal.
Here are some examples of how poll questions can differ:
Public Policy Polling asked 730 registered voters, “The US and other countries have reached an agreement to place limits on Iran’s nuclear program in order to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. In exchange for limiting its nuclear program, Iran would receive gradual relief from US and international economic sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency would monitor Iran’s facilities and if Iran was caught breaking the agreement, the current economic sanctions would be imposed again. Would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program?”
35% of respondents said they strongly support the agreement, 19% somewhat support it, 32% strongly oppose it, and 6% somewhat oppose it.
CNN, on the other hand, asked 1,017 adults, “As you may know, the U.S. Congress must approve the agreement the United States and five other countries reached with Iran that is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons before it can take effect. Do you think Congress should approve or reject the deal with Iran?”
The less-detailed explanation of the agreement yielded these responses: 44% thought Congress should approve the deal while 52% thought Congress should reject the deal.
Pew Research gave even less of an explanation of the deal than CNN in its poll. It first asked its participants how much they have heard about the recent agreement, and then it asked, “From what you know, do you approve or disapprove of this agreement?”
Out of the 1,594 respondents who had heard about the deal, 38% approved while 48% disapproved.
To reinforce the point that informing the interviewees about the context of the deal leads to greater unbiased support, the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) poll provided both sides of the argument to politically divergent voters from states such as Oklahoma (Republican), Virginia (swing), and Maryland (Democratic). The results still showed more support (61%) for the agreement than disapproval (36%).