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Saturday, February 2, 2008
Iranian-Americans overwhelmingly favor U.S.-Iran diplomacy, Berkeley poll shows
WASHINGTON DC (NIAC) -- Iranian Americans overwhelmingly support dialogue and diplomacy between the United States and Iran, a scientific poll conducted by the University of California Berkeley shows. Support for military strikes against Iran is minimal in the community. This stands in stark contrast to sentiments in the Iraqi-American community, who tended to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The poll was conducted last year -- prior to the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate -- by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley.
While decision-makers in Washington are often courted by Iranian groups favoring war and covert regime change, the poll shows that a silent majority in the community prefer diplomacy. Over 66 percent of the Iranian-Americans polled in California favor dialogue and negotiations between the U.S. and Iran.
Even in Los Angeles, widely believed to be a stronghold for the community’s most hard-line elements, between 61 and 65 percent of the Iranian-American respondents favor engagement.
The numbers are even higher outside of the Los Angeles area. Proponents of dialogue constitute 70 percent of the Iranian-American population in the San Francisco Bay Area, 78 percent in San Diego, and 76 percent in the Sacramento area.
The poll also outlines differences between the various religious groups within the Iranian-American community, showing that there is ultimately far more unity than discord.
In each religious sub-group -- Muslims, Jews, Bahais, Christians, and Zoroastrians -- a majority favor negotiations, with support being the strongest among Muslims and Bahais (75 percent and 73 percent respectively). In the Zoroastrian community, support for talks stands at 60 percent; 56 percent in the Christian community, and 51 percent in the Jewish community.
General discomfort with the direction of U.S. foreign policy is reflected in the low approval ratings for both Republicans and Democrats. Only 22 percent of the Iranian-American community has favorable views of President George W. Bush, while Democrats in Congress enjoy the support of 44 percent of Iranian-Americans and Republicans 21 percent.
The community is divided on the issue of whether Iran constitutes a threat to the U.S. and Iran’s own neighbors. In regards to the U.S., 60 percent of the respondents do not view Iran as a threat to the U.S. while 35 percent do.
The poll also shows that respondents who rely on Persian language satellite TV for their news tend to be more hardline in their outlook. However, only 2 percent of the Iranian-American community relies on these satellite TVs, according to the poll. This is noteworthy mindful of the fact that 64 percent of the respondents reside in Los Angeles, which is home to many of these Persian language satellite broadcasts.
The project is the first scientific poll measuring the political orientation of Iranian-Americans in California, according to the project’s director Dariush Zahedi of the Institute of Government Studies at Berkeley.
“Up to now, there have been no valid and reliable surveys of the attitudes of Iranian-Americans with regard to U.S. policy on the Middle East and Iran,” says Zahedi. “This seems long overdue, particularly in California, and particularly in light of the Bush administration’s policies,” said Zahedi.
California is home to the highest concentration of Iranian-Americans in the nation, with over half of the total population residing in the state, according to U.S. census figures. While the census reports that there are 330,000 Iranian-Americans living in the U.S., academic institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Iranian American organizations such as NIAC, estimate that the figure is closer to one million due to systemic errors in the census.
“It is quite significant that the vast majority of the Iranian-American community support diplomacy even though their voice often has been overshadowed by that of the pro-war minority,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.
“It shows that by and large, the community is moderate, opposed to war, and eager to support constructive rather than reactive measures,” Parsi concluded.
NIAC is a Washington, DC-based non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Iranian-American participation in American civic life. NIAC is funded by donations from the Iranian-American community as well as grants from the Pluralism Fund, the Kenbe Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, and the National Endowment for Democracy, among others.