Based on the poll conducted by iPOS in February 2016 regarding Iran’s 2016 Elections, more than 70% of respondents will participate. Moreover, Iranians who believe that Reformists are capable of solving problems facing the country outnumber those who believe that Principalists are so capable by 2 to 1 (19% to 9% respectively). The Reformists also enjoy a greater level of approval than Principalists (20% compared with 12% for Principalists and 5% for Moderates).

Twenty-six percent of Iranians believe that the parliamentary election will be completely free. Iranians are also split over whether the Guardian Council should vet candidates.

Sixty-seven percent of Iranians say that they approve of the job Mr. Rouhani is doing as president, almost 13 percentage points more than in July 2015. Eighteen percent disapprove of his performance. Only 28% of respondents approve of the job being done by parliament. A majority of Iranians (43%) disapprove of the way the parliament is doing its job.

Turnout Rate: Over 70%

According to the results of this poll, almost 75% of Iranians say they will definitely cast their ballot in the next parliamentary election The estimated turnout rate for the Assembly of Expert election is 73%. The last time Iran enjoyed such a massive participation in a parliamentary election was twenty years ago in 1996, with 71 percent turnout.

iPOS anticipates that the level of participation in the 2016 election will be more than 70 percent.

Question: Have you made a decision as to whether or not you’ll cast a ballot in the next parliamentary elections? Which is to say: are you going to vote or not?

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Question: Have you made a decision as to whether or not you’ll cast a ballot in the next Assembly of Experts election? Which is to say: are you going to vote or not?

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Respondents Believe that Reformists Are More Capable of Solving National Problems than Principalists

When it comes to perceptions of parties’ ability to deal successfully with problems facing the country, Reformists enjoy double the favorable opinion of Principalists (19% to 9% respectively). Five percent register favor for the Moderates, 4% say all groups should work together, and 3% believe some other third independent group is best equipped. Almost 9% of respondents believe that neither of the political parties is capable of solving such problems, and a considerable 51% express no opinion on the matter.

Question: You may be aware that there are a number of main political groups in Iran, a situation comparable to other countries in the world. For example, there are some groups which refer to themselves as Principalists, Reformists, Moderates, etc. In your opinion which one of these groups would do a better job of solving the problems the country is now facing?

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In terms of general sympathy and identification with the parties, 20% of respondents say they agree with Reformists and 12% identify with the Principalist group. Moreover, 2% say they favor both parties equally. Five percent register favor for Moderates, 6% name various other independent groups, and 11% express no particular preference. Among all the respondents, almost 44% say they’re not sure which group they prefer more.

Question: Which political groups (including Reformists, Principalist, and Moderates,) do you tend to lean toward? Which is to say, with which of these group’s idea does you most agree?

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However, these numbers aren’t necessarily an indication that reformists will enjoy a majority in the new parliament. Parliamentary composition depends on an intricate set of electoral mechanisms, many of which have worked to secure seats for the Principalists due to partisan disqualification of many Reformist candidates. Among 290 total seats, Reformists are fielding 140 dedicated candidates and support another 9 who are not formally affiliated with them but to some extent share party values.

Assessment of the Level of Freedom of the Election

Twenty-six percent of Iranians believe that the parliamentary election will be completely free, and 46% say the election would be somewhat free. Moreover, 13% register the opinion that the election will be a little free or not free at all.

Question: In your opinion to what extent will the coming parliamentary elections be free? Which is to say, completely free, somewhat free, or not free at all.

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With a separate query, IPOS asks about the preliminary qualification process for candidates: namely, whether or not candidates should stand to a popular vote regardless of the determinations of the Guardian Council. According to the results, 43% believe that the Guardian Council should approve candidate qualifications prior to the election. On the other hand, 41% say that the electorate should have final say in selecting representatives.

Question: What do you think about the preliminary qualification process for candidates? Some say the Guardian Council should approve candidate qualifications prior to elections. Others maintain the Guardian Council should not have such authority on behalf of people, and that the electorate should have final say in selecting representatives. Which point of view do you agree with?

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President Rouhani Job Approval: 67%

President Rouhani’s job approval is at the highest level since iPOS started assessing it on a quarterly basis. Sixty-seven percent of Iranians presently say that they approve of the job Mr. Rouhani is doing as president, almost 13 percentage points more than in July 2015. Eighteen percent disapprove.

Question: To date, president Rouhani has been sitting in power for nearly two and a half years. Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way Mr. Rouhani is handling his job as President?

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iPOS typically ask respondents how would they assess the president’s performance on a scale of 0 to 20. His score in February 2016 stands at 14.9, the highest score iPOS has assessed since our inaugural poll in November 2014. In August 2015, his score was 13.9.

Question: On a scale of 0 to 20, how would you assess the President’s performance?

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Parliament Job Approval: 28% / Assembly of Experts Job Approval: 40%

A majority of Iranians (43%) disapprove of the way that the parliament is doing its job. Only 28% approve of the job being done by parliament and 18% believe that the performance of the parliament is middling or average.

Question: To date, the present parliament has been sitting for nearly four years. Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way parliament is handling its job?

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iPOS also asked respondents to assess their own representatives in parliament. According to the results, 48% disapprove (somewhat dissatisfied or completely dissatisfied) of the job being done by their member. Thirty percent believe that their own representative is doing well (somewhat satisfied or completely satisfied). Thirteen percent say their own representative is performing in an average or middling fashion.

Question: How about your own representative? Do you approve or disapprove the way he/she is handling his/her job?

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Respondents were also asked about their assessment of the performance of the Assembly of Experts. Results indicate that 40% of the respondents approve of the job being done by the Assembly of Experts and 15% disapprove. Curiously, a conspicuous 36% indicate that they have no sense at all of the Assembly’s performance.

Question: As you may be aware, the term of the present Assembly of Experts has lasted the last nine years. Generally speaking, do you approve or disapprove of the way the Assembly is handling its job?

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Across distinct questions, iPOS asked respondents about their level of familiarity with the responsibilities of the Assembly of Experts and its chairman. Only 38% of respondents could define at least one of the responsibilities of the Assembly of Experts (including supervision of the Supreme Leader, selection of the Supreme Leader, and his dismissal). Forty-seven percent of respondents answered outright that they weren’t familiar with the Assembly’s role, and another 15% registered incorrect guesses.

Question: Do you know what the main responsibilities of the Assembly of Experts?

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Moreover, only 10% could accurately name the chairman of the Assembly. Nearly 70% claimed outright not to know, and almost 20% registered incorrect guesses. Fifty-one percent of respondents could correctly name the speaker of parliament, however.

Question: Can you identify the present speaker of the Assembly of Experts?

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Question: Can you also identify the present speaker of parliament?

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Candidate Choice Criteria: 90% Value Great Expertise, While Only 21 % Place Emphasis on Ethnic Background

The aggregate result of respondents’ assessments of various candidate choice criteria shows that having great expertise and being religious are viewed as the most important qualities in respondents’ voting decisions (90% and 87% respectively) whereas sharing the respondent’s ethnicity and being young were the least important factors (21% and 40% respectively).

Question: People usually take various criteria into consideration when choosing among candidates. I’ll now read a few sentences regarding such criteria. Please tell me how important each of the following criteria is to you in your voting decision which is to say very important, somewhat important, or not at all important.

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Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

Iranians are possessed of different opinions when it comes to the matter of international disagreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Forty-seven percent of Iranians believe that Iran should deal with Saudi trespasses with a firm hand, suggesting such means as resistance, breaking diplomatic relationships, and even declaring war at rates of 28%, 13% and 6% respectively. Twenty-four percent prefer peace talks or negotiation, and 6% say Iran should not send pilgrims to the Hajj religious ceremony within Saudi borders.

Question: For the final question we’ll turn our attention to recent disagreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In your opinion how should Iran react to recent Saudi actions?

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Survey Methods:

  • Telephone interviews (cellphone and landline) were conducted from February 12 -20, 2015, with a random sample of 1,184 Iranians aged 18 and older living in Iran. Native Farsi speakers conducted the interviews during daylight hours.

  • The proportional two-stage sample includes respondents from every province. Provinces have been categorized into three groups based on their human development index (HDI).

  • Based on the sample, there is a 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is between ± 2.85 and ± 3.17 percentage points, depending on the number of respondents for each question.

  • Nine demographic variables including gender, age, province of residence, location (urban or rural), education, language, ethnicity, religion, and residential situation have been considered in this poll. Results are weighted by gender, age and location (urban vs. rural areas) based on the Iranian national census of 2011.

  • Aside from demographic variables, two ground variables (communication variables) were used to gauge respondents’ level of awareness concerning the matter of corruption:

  • To what extent did they keep up with election news

  • What media channels did they use to acquire such information

Remarks

The following complicating factors should be noted regarding the level of participation in the election:

  • Previous surveys suggest people generally exaggerate in their self-reporting of voting intentions. In elections around the world (including the United States) the level of participation registered in polls is usually greater than the empirical turnout on election day.
  • To have a better sense of who will actually cast ballots, we asked about the respondent’s awareness of the date of the election. According to the results, sixty-nine percent of Iranians are aware of the parliamentary election date (i.e., they’re able to name the exact date or, more generally, month in which the election is going to happen). The level of awareness of the Assembly of Expert’s election is lower at 46 percent.
  • Our polling period concluded on February 20th, six days before the election day. We assume that responses regarding the level of awareness would become more accurate as election day drew near. We assume moreover that people tend to be more likely to report that they’ll take part in the elections they nearer they are to election day.
  • Iran doesn’t have a registration-based voting system and analysis of likely voters vs. registered voters is thus not possible. For this reason, we normally assume that the empirical participation level will be less than numbers indicated by poll respondents. Because our poll did not extent through the final week of the election period, however, we assume, based on past trends, the percentage of the respondents who say that they will “definitely vote” could increase to 80%, and the level of awareness of the election date to 70% in the final days leading up to election day. Based on these two numbers, our projection of the turnout rate in the next election hovers between 70% and 80%.
  • Both elections (parliament and Assembly of Experts) are held simultaneously. We thus assume that voters who show up to cast a ballot for their parliamentary representative will also vote in the Assembly of Experts contest as a matter of course. However, we predict that the level of participation in the Assembly of Experts election will be less overall than that of the parliamentary election.
  • In light of criteria detailed above, iPOS anticipates that the turnout rate will be more than 70% and less than 80%. The last time Iran enjoyed such a massive participation in a parliamentary election was twenty years ago in 1996, with 71 percent turnout.

Further Background

The next election for Iran’s parliament and Assembly of Experts will be held February 26, 2016. The elections are the first of their kind to follow President Hassan Rouhani’s June 2013 victory in the presidential contest and the subsequent conclusion and implementation of the P5+1 nuclear deal.

Two main political factions face off in both contests. The Reformist and Moderate coalition (including president Rouhani and two former presidents, Mr. Khatami and Mr. Hashemi) represent one side. On the other side, the Principalists and their political icons such as Mr. Hadad Adel (former speaker of the parliament) and three high-ranking clerks, including Mr. Janati (head of the Guardian Council), Mr. Yazdi (chairman of the Assembly of Experts) and Mr. Mesbah-Yazdi (spiritual leader of the Iranian hardliners) have built their own alliance.

iPos conducted this poll to evaluate the political atmosphere of Iran heading into the election, thus assessing a number of important factors in both elections such as level of participation, political group affiliation, general popular awareness of the elections, the electorate’s criteria in choosing their candidates, and job approval ratings of the president, parliament, and Assembly of Experts. Moreover, since any election in Iran is proceeded by debate about the level of political freedom (specifically in regards to the Guardian Council’s “prequalification” process) we posed some questions to gauge average Iranians’ views on such matters.