Understanding Iranian Public Opinion

Understanding Iranian Public Opinion

Ebrahim Mohseni
University of Maryland School of Public Policy

Colin H. Kahl

Center for a New American Security (CNAS)

Steven Kull
Program on International Policy Attitudes
Geneive Abdo (moderator)
Sebastian Gräfe (opening remarks)
Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America


Understanding Iranian Public Opinion from Stimson Center on Vimeo.

the midst of bombastic rhetoric exchanged among Iran, Israel, and
Western states over the nuclear issue, Iranian public opinion is often
lost in the discussion. Where do the Iranian people stand? Iranian
public opinion is seldom heard on topics such as the nuclear program,
international sanctions, and a potential military strike.
Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America and Stimson hosted a discussion
of Iranian public opinion.  Drawing on polls from numerous sources,
including recent surveys conducted inside Iran, as well as polls
conducted by calling into Iran, the speakers analyzed Iranian
attitudes on the country’s nuclear program, nuclear weapons,
international sanctions, and a potential military strike. The discussion also focused on how sanctions and military threats have shaped
Iranian opinion toward their own government and the West.

Ebrahim Mohseni is a PhD Candidate at the Maryland School of
Public Policy and a Lecturer on the Faculty of World Studies at the University
of Tehran. He is also providing consultancy to various research organizations
inside Iran that investigate Iranian public opinion on issues of regional and
international significance. As part of his dissertation, Mohseni is
investigating the factors that influence Iran’s decision making in regards to
its nuclear program and in particular how sanctions have affected Iran’s
nuclear policies. Before joining the Maryland School of Public Policy’s PhD
program, he was a research associate at the Program on International Policy
Attitudes (PIPA) where he, along with other PIPA senior staff, designed
questionnaires, analyzed survey data, and conducted in-depth surveys on issues
of international significance in more than 40 countries, including Iran, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, the United States, Russia,
China, and EU member countries. He then joined Center for International and
Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) as a graduate assistant and conducted in-depth
studies on Iran’s nuclear decision-making. Mohseni is also the co-author of People and the Tenth Election
(University of Tehran Press, 2012), which investigates Iranian people’s voting
behavior in the tenth presidential election of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Mohseni
has a Masters of Public Policy and a Graduate Certificate in Intelligence
Analysis from the University of Maryland. He also has Bachelors degrees in
Political Science and in Economics. 

Colin H. Kahl
is a
Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) focusing on
Middle East security and defense policy and an associate professor in the
Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of
Foreign Service. From February 2009 through December 2011, Dr. Kahl served as
the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East. In June 2011,
Dr. Kahl was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service
by Secretary Robert Gates. Dr. Kahl has published widely on US defense policy
in the Middle East, including articles in Foreign
Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Security, The Los Angeles Times, Middle
East Policy, The National Interest
and The
New York Times
.  He has also
published numerous works on the sources of political instability and violent
conflict in developing countries, including States,
Scarcity, and Civil Strife in the Developing World
(Princeton University
Press, 2006). He received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia
University in 2000 and his BA in political science from the University of
Michigan in 1993.

Steven Kull, a political
psychologist, is director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes
(PIPA), which manages WorldPublicOpinion.org, and Senior Research Scholar at
the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM),
University of Maryland. He has specialized in studying public opinion in the
Muslim world, conducting polls and focus groups.  His most recent book is Feeling Betrayed:
The Roots of Muslim Anger at America
(Brookings). Kull has played a
central role in the BBC World Service global poll, and regularly gives
briefings to the US Congress, the State Department, the UN, and the European
Commission. He appears frequently in the international media and is a member of
the Council on Foreign Relations.

Geneive Abdo (moderator) is a fellow
at Stimson.  Her current
research focuses on contemporary Iran and political Islam. She is conducting a
study for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution on
Sunni-Shia relations. She was formerly the liaison officer for the Alliance of
Civilizations, a U.N. initiative under Secretary-General Kofi
Annan.   Before joining the United Nations, Abdo was a foreign
correspondent.  From 1998-2001, Abdo was the Iran correspondent for
the British newspaper the Guardian and a regular contributor to the Economist
and the International Herald Tribune. She is the author of three
books, including, No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam
(Oxford University Press, 2000) and Answering
Only to God: Faith and Freedom in Twenty-First Century Iran
(Henry Holt,

Sebastian Gräfe (opening remarks) is the program director for Foreign & Security
Policy at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America. Graefe worked
previously as Senior Advisor at the European Parliament in Brussels. In this
capacity, he dealt with European integration of the Western Balkans, EU
structural funds as well as the EU internal market. He has worked extensively
on Iran and spent time in Tehran doing research. Born in Eastern Germany, he
holds a Masters of Arts in political science, economics and ethnology from the
Leipzig University.


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