President-elect Donald Trump has proposed that the United States withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and seek to negotiate a deal with better terms. This brief simulation provides information on the main terms of the deal that was negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as arguments for and against withdrawing and arguments for and against continuing with the deal.

Should the U.S. withdraw or continue with the deal? Try the Iran Policymaking Simulation


With the Donald J. Trump administration just a couple of weeks away from taking over the nation’s foreign policy, a new survey from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) finds that nearly two thirds of Americans oppose withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and seeking to negotiate a better deal, as has been proposed by the president-elect.

“Though President-elect Trump campaigned on ripping up the deal and seeking to negotiate a better one, the majority of Americans would rather continue with the deal as long as Iran continues to comply with its terms.” said PPC Director Steven Kull.

Respondents were first presented the main terms of the deal that was negotiated between the UN Security Council (plus Germany) and Iran over its nuclear enrichment program and asked to evaluate arguments for and against withdrawing and seeking to renegotiate. Both arguments were found convincing by majorities. Six in ten expressed optimism that other UN members could be persuaded to join in the effort to renegotiate.

However, 69 percent said it was unlikely that Iran would agree to renegotiate the deal and make more concessions. This was a bipartisan perspective that included 64 percent of Republicans as well as 75 percent of Democrats.

When asked for their final recommendation, 64 percent recommended continuing with the deal as long as Iran continues to comply with the terms, while 34 percent opted for withdrawing and seeking to negotiate a better deal.

While an overwhelming 86 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents favored continuing with the deal, only 40 percent of Republicans concurred. Fifty eight percent of Republicans favored withdrawing and seeking to renegotiate.

Interestingly, support for renegotiating was high among Republicans, though even among those who favored renegotiation, 57 percent said it was unlikely that the negotiations would succeed.

The survey was fielded December 22-28, 2016 with a sample of 2,980 adult respondents drawn from Nielsen-Scarborough’s probability-based national panel (which was recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households). The margin of error is +/- 1.8 percent.

The questionnaire can be found at: http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/US_Role_in_World_Quaire-IRAN.pdf


In the final step of our Iran deal policymaking simulation, our national Citizen Cabinet panelists were asked whether they would recommend that their members of Congress approve of the deal, going through a two-stage process.

They were first asked to choose whether to recommend approval or disapproval of the deal. A modest 52 percent majority initially recommended approval, while 47 percent recommended disapproval. The result was very partisan – 69 percent of Democrats approved and 69 percent of Republicans disapproved. Among independents, three in five chose approval (60 percent). 

Panelists who recommended disapproval were then offered the alternative options that they had evaluated earlier (as noted in a previous post): ramping up sanctions higher until Iran ends enrichment; trying to start a renegotiation; or threatening military strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites and escalating if our demands are not met. They were also offered the option of approving the deal.

The most chosen alternative option was increasing sanctions (23 percent), followed by renegotiation (14 percent) and military pressure (7 percent). Another 3 percent decided on approval of the deal, and this included 3 percent of both Democrats and Republicans. This raised the total for approving the deal to 55 percent [see graph].

In the end, a clear majority concluded that approving of the deal would be the best approach and no other option received support greater than one in four.

Everyone is invited to try our policymaking simulation on the Iran deal for themselves. Click here to start.


In our recent policymaking simulation on the Iran Deal, we asked our nationwide Citizen Cabinet to consider the alternatives to making the deal. Among them is renegotiating the deal:

Proposal: The US Congress should reject the nuclear deal with Iran and do whatever it can to keep sanctions in place. Congress should tell the administration to try to renew negotiations with Iran so as to get better terms.  Negotiators would then seek to get even tighter limits on Iran’s enrichment activities, to extend time limits on the terms of the deal, and to ensure that IAEA inspectors have true anytime/anywhere inspections. Sanctions on Iran would remain in place or tightened further until a better deal is reached. With the threat of continued or increased sanctions and a greater resolve in the negotiations we will be effective in extracting more concessions. 

Fifty-nine percent found this to be Very or Somewhat convincing, including 80 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents.

Then a critique was presented:

This proposal is simply unrealistic.  It is extremely unlikely that the other permanent Members of the UN Security Council, especially China and Russia, after years of negotiations, would simply abandon the existing deal and reopen negotiations with Iran because the US changed its mind.  It is equally unlikely that Iran would agree to reopen negotiations or would be willing to show any greater flexibility.  Other countries that are already gearing up to do business with Iran are unlikely to want to reverse course because the US changed its mind.  Many countries would be annoyed with the US. The most likely scenario is that the sanctions against Iran would simply fall apart, and the US and its allies would be divided. In the end, Iran would be less constrained than it is now and much less constrained than it would be under the deal.

Sixty-seven found this Very or Somewhat convincing, including 58 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Dems and 65 percent of independents.

Panelists were then asked two questions about likelihood of success. The first asked how likely it is that the P5+1 would agree to abandon the existing deal and return to negotiations. A 54 percent majority thought this unlikely, while 44 percent thought it likely. Majorities of Democrats (61 percent) and independents (53 percent) thought it unlikely, while the prospect divided Republicans.

Panelists were then asked,

“How likely do you think it is that Iran would agree to return to negotiations and would agree to make more concessions?”

An overwhelming majority – four in five thought this unlikely (79 percent). There was little difference in responses from Republicans, Dems and independents.

A full report of the survey’s results can be seen here.

You can also try the simulation for yourself, and let your members of Congress know what you’d like them to do about the deal… click here to start.


Two surveys have just come out on the Iran nuclear deal that showed very different results. The one that simply asked for their initial reaction found plurality opposition, while the one that explained what the deal was about found solid majority support.

The Pew Research Center first asked people whether they had “heard about a recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran, the United States and other nations” and then asked, “From what you know, do you approve or disapprove of this agreement?” Thirty three percent approved, 45 percent disapproved and 22 percent had no opinion (this kind of initial response is often driven by preexisting biases, like a negative view of Iran).

However a Washington Post/ABC News survey conducted over approximately the same field period found 56 percent support, 37 percent opposed and 7 percent with no opinion. The key difference was that they explained: “As you may know, the U.S. and other countries have announced a deal to lift economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing not to produce nuclear weapons. International inspectors would monitor Iran’s facilities, and if Iran is caught breaking the agreement, economic sanctions would be imposed again. Do you support or oppose this agreement?”

In April CNN ran a question that also gave the outline of the deal that was being considered at the time. In that case, 53 percent were in support with 43 percent opposed.

Another survey released in June by the Program for Public Consultation of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland gave people even more information and support was even higher. They went through a process called a ‘policymaking simulation’ in which they received a briefing on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program and the draft of the deal being considered in some detail. All of the content was vetted with Congressional staffers from both parties, as well as outside experts, across the spectrum of opinion, to ensure that it was accurate and fair.

It was explained that the core issue was about Iran enriching uranium. The deal would allow Iran to enrich uranium but only to the low levels that would be needed for nuclear energy, but not the much higher level needed for nuclear weapons, and there would be intrusive inspections to ensure that Iran was complying. The alternative approach being promoted in Congress was also presented–ramping up sanctions on Iran to pressure it to give up all uranium enrichment.

Respondents then evaluated three arguments in favor of the deal, three against the deal, three in favor of ramping up sanctions instead, and then three against that idea (all the arguments were vetted by proponents from both sides to ensure these were the strongest ones being made). Interestingly, majorities found all arguments convincing–which means they were really thinking it through. Only then were they finally asked what course they would recommend.

We ran this policymaking simulation with representative panels of registered voters (called Citizen Cabinets) in three states–a red state (Oklahoma), a blue state (Maryland) and a swing state (Virginia), as part of the Voice Of the People program. In all cases, more than seven in ten recommended the deal over ramping up sanctions. In all three states, support was also quite bipartisan with six in ten Republicans favoring the deal, as well large majorities of Democrats and independents. The results can be found here.

When a representative national sample went through this process last February and were presented a rougher outline of the possible deal being discussed at the time, 61 percent favored pursuing such a deal while 36 percent favored ramping up sanctions (read more here).

So is there a right way to survey people? Each approach tells us something important–ranging from their initial reaction to an informed and deliberated conclusion. It is important for members of Congress to know about these initial reactions, but it is also important for them to know what the people would say if they were at the table, and like a member of Congress, getting briefed, considering the pros and cons, and finally making their recommendations. I believe the latter should most influence policy.

Note: Everyone is invited to try the policymaking simulation, which has been updated to reflect the final terms of the deal.

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This piece first appeared at Huffington Post on July 29, 2015


The policymaking simulation on Iran’s nuclear program is live on Voice Of the People’s website. Users can get the facts, evaluate the arguments and send their recommendations to their representatives in Congress. The online tool allows anyone a chance to weigh in on what the United States should do regarding Iran’s future use of nuclear technology.

For the study, which was released on July 15, a representative sample of Americans went through the process that puts the respondent in the shoes of a policymaker. Working online, they were briefed on the current issues of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, and presented options for negotiations or furthering sanctions. They were allowed to make their own detailed proposal on the course the United States should pursue.

“The policymaking simulations are the foundation of our Citizen Cabinet initiative – a bold, new platform for informed citizen engagement,” said VOP Executive Director Richard Parsons. “They are an extremely effective tool for determining exactly what people want their government to do on even the most complex issues, once they have the basic facts.”

To try the simulation, click here.


In this short video, Steven Kull talks about the Policymaking Simulation used in the recent study on negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. He describes how information is gathered in a balanced, bipartisan manner and how the simulation allows participants to let their elected officials know exactly what they want them to do.

To watch the video, click here.




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