Polls Suggest Everything You Think You Know About Iran's "Tainted" Election Is Wrong
As news of the unrest in Iran was breaking,I wrote a post* suggesting we take it all with a big grain of salt:
Most of what I'm reading on the Iranian elections today is so thoroughly filtered through a Western prism that it offers little in the way of context to help understand Iran's domestic political culture.I actually got a lot of grief just for urging caution -- people really wanted to believe that the regime was illegitimate in the eyes of the Iranian people, that the unrest was this great push for democracy and that the opposition wanted a more conciliatory stance towards the West. So, how do the Iranians view their government and those messy elections? An analysis of 12 reputable polls basically suggests that every narrative popular with our media is just flat-out wrong ...
The analysis conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland (PIPA), was based on: • a series of 10 recently-released polls conducted by the University of Tehran; eight conducted in the month before the June 12 election and two conducted in the month after the election, based on telephone interviews conducted within Iran • a poll by GlobeScan conducted shortly after the election, based on telephone interviews conducted within Iran • a poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org (managed by PIPA) conducted August 27--September 10, based on telephone interviews made by calling into Iran The study sought to address the widely-discussed hypotheses that Ahmadinejad did not win the June 12 election and that the Iranian people perceive their government as illegitimate. It also sought to explore the assumption that the opposition represents a movement favoring a substantially different posture toward the United States. The analysis of the data found little evidence to support any of these hypotheses. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said, "Our analysis suggests that it would not be prudent to base US policy on the assumption that the Iranian public is in a pre-revolutionary state of mind." On the question of whether Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election, in the week before the election and after the election, in all polls a majority said they planned to or did vote for Ahmadinejad. These numbers ranged from 52 to 57% immediately before the election and 55 to 66% after the election. Steven Kull comments, "These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process. But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad." The analysis did reveal factors that could have contributed to the impression that Ahmadinejad did not win. University of Tehran polls show that in the first few weeks of the campaign his support dropped precipitously and he did not enjoy majority support in the city of Tehran. But in the week before the election, his support recovered outside the capital. Going into the election 57% said they expected Ahmadinejad to win. Thus it is not surprising that, in several post-election polls, more than seven in ten said they saw Ahmadinejad as the legitimate president. About eight in ten said the election was free and fair.Of course, public opinion about the legitimacy of the regime doesn't in any way mitigate the very serious charges of widespread civil and human rights abuses that followed. *OK, our system has plenty of bugs, and one of the oddest is that many of my old posts have magically become the work of Kevin Tillman, brother of Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly-fire in Afghanistan. But I swear that I did write that post!