Americans doubt Joe Biden can improve the United States’ relationship with Iran

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
December 03, 2020, 3:49 PM UTC

When President-Elect Joe Biden takes over as the United States’ leader in January, he will likely face a challenging relationship with America’s perceived enemies, Iran. To make matters more complicated: Americans are not abundantly confident that the incoming Biden Administration will be able to improve relations between the United States and Iran. 

The latest data from The Economist/YouGov poll indicates that registered voters are split on whether Biden will make relations with Iran better (35%) or worse (35%). Another 17% believe nothing will change about the negative relationship while Biden is in office, and 13% are uncertain. Two-thirds of Republicans (66%) and two in five (40%) Independents believe Biden will make matters worse compared to just 8% of Democrats who say the same. 

Americans do not look kindly on Iran. Four in five (80%) registered voters view Iran as an either enemy or a nation unfriendly toward the United States. This negative perception of Iran is down only slightly from January, following heightened tensions after America killed an Iranian military commander, Qassim Soleimani.  

More than four in five Republicans (84%) see Iran as unfriendly or an enemy, down eight points since January, while 74% of Democrats say the same, a five-point reduction. 

Iran is viewed as one of America’s top enemies, trailing only behind North Korea.  

In contrast, Israel — a nation that it is frequently in-conflict with — is viewed as one of America’s top allies. With 45% of registered voters classing Israel as any ally, the nation ranks behind only the United Kingdom (62%), Canada (60%), and France (45%) in the list of countries Americans consider to be closest. Republicans (58%) are much more likely than Democrats (31%) to consider Israel an ally. 

About three in 10 registered voters (28%) consider Israel a friendly nation to the United States with one-third of Democrats (34%) and one in five Republicans (22%) saying the same. Overall, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider Israel an ally or friendly. 

Related: American perceptions of China grow more negative as public blames it for COVID-19 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll  

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between November 21 - 24, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.2% for the overall sample.   

Image: Getty