After a massive popular uprising shook the pillars of the tyrannical regime in Iran, the University of Maryland published a poll called “Iranian public opinion after the protests.” Its results, an outrageous contradiction of common sense, have been widely covered in American media. According to the self-proclaimed “survey,” the majority of Iranians support Tehran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and are in favor of Iranian funding of Assad, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. I cannot but question the reliability of the pollsters, wonder if the respondents are even real, and reject their incredible results.
The most important question to ask when looking at a public opinion poll is who conducted it. A Canadian-based company called IranPoll, which has local offices in nine Iranian cities, conducted the survey in Iran. That in and of itself raises a couple of important questions.
First, how is it that the tyrannical regime in Iran allowed an allegedly independent firm based in Canada to do surveys on highly sensitive issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the recent popular uprising, and publish the results in the United States? This is the same brutal regime notorious for imprisoning and torturing its own journalists. Moreover, this odd coupling of Canadians and Iranian protests has precedent. In 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, was arrested for taking photographs of Iranian protests. She was subsequently sexually abused, then tortured to death by Iranian authorities in the infamous Evin Prison. So how come taking a few photographs of Iranian protesters cost one Canadian’s life, but another Canadian was allowed to conduct a poll on Iranian protests? Maybe the answer is in the results. Maybe the regime hated the truth in Zahra Kazemi’s photographs, but loved IranPoll’s portrayal of Iranian public opinion.
Another problem: How could or would any reliable poll be taken in Iran, a country in which nothing can stand against maslahate nezam –the interests of the ruling mullahs” The ruling tyrants do whatever is in their interest, the people are deprived of their rights, and sincerity and trust are not public commodities. Under such conditions, how can a survey of people’s opinions, specifically their anti-government opinions, mean anything? In a society in which public opinion itself has no power, who cares or dares to tell the truth?
The second question that comes to mind is the sampling of respondents. The results indicate astronomical levels of support for the regime in all aspects of domestic and foreign policy– which came as a surprise even to pundits on Iran’s state-run television. One possible explanation is “selective” sampling. Maybe the pollsters only called Iranian officials, and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Bassij.
But even if only Iranian officials were surveyed, the results would still be much less favorable than what IranPoll presents as Iranian public opinion. For example, GholamhosseinKarbaschi, the former Mayor of Tehran, has publicly questioned Iran’s backing for proxy wars, asking, “Is the goal of peace achievable in Syria by providing money and arms and killing people?”
Yadollah Salami, a former member of Parliament, also questioned whether involvement in Syria is in the interest of the regime, saying: “Doesn’t Iran’s proxy war in Syria bring about more human casualties and destruction?”
In 2013, even Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime’s number-two man, complained about the casualties of war and criticized Assad’s use of chemical weapons and massive crackdown on dissidents.
But according to IranPoll, in the wake of nationwide protests calling for regime change, more than two-thirds of the respondents were in favor of the cornerstone of the clerical regime’s foreign policy. Perhaps the “respondents” are not Iranian at all, or even human. Perhaps aliens?
Fairy tale results
Only with the assumption of delusional pollsters and “alien” respondents can we make sense of the poll and its results. Under a tyrannical regime, where every aspect of ordinary Iranians’ lives is controlled by the government, 66.8% of the respondents disagreed with the statement, “The government interferes too much in people’s personal lives”; 85.8 percent believe it is important for Iran to develop nuclear capability; 94.9 percent believe it is important for the country to develop missiles; and 85.2 percent believe Iran should continue testing ballistic missiles.
One point the results do clarify: why IranPoll is able to do business in Iran, and why a truly independent and professional journalist like Zahra Kazemi was not.
Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran, M.D., M.A., Ph.D. (c), is a doctoral candidate at Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University. He has participated in international policy forums, including the Policy Studies Organization’s annual Middle East Dialogue conferences, and has written for multiple Iranian news outlets.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.