Israeli pollsters survey Iran’s public on the sly

IDC poll conducted by Persian speakers finds 40% of Iranians would give up nuclear arms aspirations for end to sanctions, 74% want ties with US

Iranians on the streets of Tehran, illustrative photo (Photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iranians on the streets of Tehran, illustrative photo (Photo credit: Atta Kenare/AFP)

A poll of Iranian public opinion on the Israeli-Iranian conflict as well as Tehran’s nuclear program has had some surprising results, the New York Times reported Friday, with 40 percent of respondents saying Iran should recognize Israel once it achieves peace with the Palestinians. A similar percentage said they would support Iran giving up any possible military aspirations of its nuclear program in exchange for the complete lifting of international sanctions.

But most remarkable of all is the fact is that the poll itself was conducted by an Israeli institution. Carried out at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, it involved six Israeli pollsters of Iranian origin who speak native Persian, who surveyed 530 Iranian citizens by phone while hiding the fact that they were not in fact calling from Iran at all.

“We said we were calling from a research center,” Professor Alex Mintz, the head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC who led the initiative, told the New York Times. “Most didn’t ask for details. To those who did, we said an institute for policy and strategy. Nobody imagined we were phoning from Israel.”

Still, some of those polled were reportedly surprised and even suspicious at the openness of the questions. To those who were distrustful, the researchers gave a phony number in Tehran which they were told they could call back. This was often enough to assuage respondents’ doubts.

The poll was conducted evenly between men and women and involved people from both urban and rural areas. It found that 74% of respondents were in favor of renewing diplomatic and trade ties with the US, despite regarding America as Iran’s greatest enemy.

Around 70% said they supported negotiations with the international community over Iran’s nuclear program, though only 9% said they would agree to stop all aspects of the program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and does not have any military component.

Explaining the rationale behind the project, Mintz said “There is a lot of news in Israel about what the Iranians think and want, but nobody asked them.”

The results of the poll will be officially unveiled at this year’s Herzliya Conference, which is set to open on Sunday.

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