In October of 2011, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) commissioned Zogby Research Services (formally known as Zogby International) to conduct its third national public opinion survey of Iranian Americans to gather accurate attitudinal and demographic information about the Iranian American community. The 2011 survey follows similar surveys commissioned by PAAIA and conducted by Zogby Research Services in 2008 and 2009. The surveys are an integral component of better understanding the Iranian American community and having its voice heard through the availability of on-going accurate scientific data.
The results of the 2011 PAAIA survey indicate that over the past three years, the importance of ethnic heritage to Iranian Americans remains unchanged, with eighty-three percent (83%)believing that their heritage is either very important or somewhat important to them. Iranian Americans continue to retain close ties to family and friends in Iran, although percentages of respondents who say they have family in Iran has dropped off somewhat. Still six in ten Iranian Americans indicate that they communicate with their family and friends in Iran at least several times a month.
Most Iranian Americans (43%) believe that internal developments in Iran and the state of U.S.-Iran relations are at the core of their issues as Iranian Americans. These issues correlate and are at the heart of domestic issues involving Iranian Americans in the United States (e.g., civil rights, discrimination, etc.).
Iranian Americans want the Iranian regime to change. For the above mentioned self-interested reason, two-thirds of Iranian Americans believe that Iran should be a secular democracy. In contrast, only six percent (6%) believe that any form of an “Islamic Republic” would work well in Iran. The survey indicates that from among a list of six issues relating to U.S.-Iran relations, by far the greatest number of Iranian Americans (63%) cite the promotion of human rights and democracy as the most important, followed by thirty percent (30%) who cite the promotion of regime change.
However, though Iranian Americans want to see a democratic Iran that respects human rights, they differ on how the foregoing aspirations can be achieved. Thirty eight percent (38%) believe that diplomatic negotiations or establishing diplomatic relations (each received 19%) are the best foreign policy approaches vis-à-vis Iran that would also be in the best interests of the United States. In contrast, thirty-two percent (32%) of Iranian Americans believe that the promotion of regime change would be in the best interest of the United States. Only three percent (3%) of Iranian Americans favor a military option against Iran.
A large majority of seventy-three percent (73%) of Iranian Americans strongly support or somewhat support the establishment of a U.S. interest section in Iran that would provide consular services and issue U.S. visas. This is in keeping with the 2008 survey results, in relation to the fact that sixty-one percent (61%) of Iranian Americans have traveled to Iran at least once since moving to the United States, and the continued close ties they maintain with family and friends living in Iran.
A significant portion (44%) of Iranian Americans cite restrictions on transferring money between Iran and the U.S as having a somewhat burdensome or a very burdensome impact on their ability to support their families. A similar percentage, forty-seven percent (47%), view U.S. sanctions as not very burdensome or not at all burdensome on them or their family. This, however, does not discount the difficulties that the former group encounters on a daily basis as a result of the sanctions.
A majority (56%) of Iranian Americans now disapprove of President Obama’s handling of relations with Iran, while thirty-two percent (32%) approve of how the President addresses this issue. These numbers have flipped since 2009 when a majority of Iranian Americans viewed President Obama’s handling of relations with Iran favorably. Although their favorable attitude towards the Obama Administration’s policy towards Iran has declined, fifty-five percent (55%) of Iranian Americans indicate that they would vote for President Obama if the 2012 election were held today.
When asked if they would support or oppose the delisting of the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) from the State Department’s list of foreign Terrorist Organizations, a plurality of Iranian Americans(45%) cite that they are somewhat opposed or strongly opposed, while twenty-two percent (22%) indicate that they strongly support or somewhat support, and one-third were unsure.