The Democratic Majorty

Iranians have democratic values


The Democratic Majorty
by Yuval Porat

In the high-stakes international discussions surrounding Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran's 80 million people are often forgotten. So I, along with a small team of Israelis, decided to explore the driving forces of Iranian society. There have been signs, on the streets and over the Internet, of a battle raging between the country's Islamic fundamentalists and the proponents of freedom. The question we set out to explore is where the majority of the people stand.

Soon we were joined by leading experts in the fields of social psychology, cross-cultural research, the Shiite Muslim religion, statistics, and dozens of Farsi-speaking volunteers.

Circumventing Iran's "electronic curtain"—as President Obama described the Iranian government's efforts to control contact with the outside world—our research team conducted telephone interviews in late 2011 and earlier this year with nearly a thousand Iranians. The latter constituted an accurate representative sample of Iranian society, including all of Iran's 31 provinces as well as a representative distribution of all ethnic groups, ages and levels of education. The interviews were conducted anonymously and the country the calls came from was concealed in order to ensure the safety of the respondents.

To overcome the challenge of measuring the potential for freedom and democracy in an autocratic country like Iran, we had to innovate. Typically, researchers use questionnaires that include questions such as "are you for or against democracy?" Or "have you ever signed a petition?" However, citizens in authoritarian countries are often afraid to respond to such explicit questions, and if they do respond their answers are likely to be distorted by fear.

Therefore we used a psychological questionnaire that measures the basic values of society without posing a single question in political terms. The questions described the views of a figurative third person and then asked the Iranian interviewee to what extent that person was similar to them. The third person was described in sentences such as "It is important to him to make his own decisions about his life," "thinking creatively is important to him," and "it is important to him to be the one who tells others what to do."

The questionnaire used in Iran was developed by cross-cultural psychology expert Shalom Schwartz as part of his "Theory of Basic Human Values," which is widely used by psychology researchers. In cooperation with Prof. Schwartz, our team created an index which measures the potential of a society to foster democratization, based on its values.

We validated the index by representative samples from 64 countries, and 162,994 respondents, from the United States and Sweden to Indonesia and Ghana. This revealed a strong correlation between a society's score on the index and its degree of democratization (based on the Freedom House measure of what constitutes a liberal democracy).

Conducting the interviews in Iran, we were amazed by how forthcoming the Iranian people were.

An analysis of the Iranian sample showed that alongside conservative values, such as conformity and tradition, Iranian society is characterized by strong support for pro-liberal values such as a belief in the importance of self-direction and benevolence. For example, 94% of the respondents identified with the sentence "freedom to choose what he does is important to him," and 71% of the respondents identified with the sentence "being tolerant toward all kinds of people and groups is important to him."

Once we had samples from Iran, we could analyze them with global samples using the new index. Iran was placed on a continuum measuring the tendency of societies world-wide to foster liberal democracy. Remarkably, in comparison to 47 countries surveyed in the World Values Survey, Iranian society's potential for liberal democracy was found to be higher than that of 23 others—including Arab countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, and Asian countries such as South Korea, India and Thailand. In comparison to 29 countries surveyed In the European Social Survey, Iran was found to have higher tendencies toward liberal democracy than Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania.

We also discovered an abnormally large gap between the societal potential for liberal democracy in Iran and the actual level of democracy in the country. In most countries there is a high correlation between the two. When such a gap exists, there is a strong tendency for the country's level of democracy to adjust in accordance with the society's potential.

Our findings demonstrate that Iranian society as a whole is characterized by a pro-liberal value structure that is deeply at odds with the fundamentalist regime. This presents considerable potential for regime change in Iran and for the development of liberal democracy.

First published in The Wall Street Journal.

Yuval Porat is an Israeli political strategist. His full report can be found at



A cry for outside help

by Siavash300 on

Iranians are seeking liberal democracy with all their existance. The regime change is the highest priority for all Iranian. This data support what exactly Iranians expressed and being bashed brutally by Islamic thugs. Iranians need international support because ruling mullahs are killing any voice of freedom. Religion dictatorship is the worst kind of dictatorship in the world. Egypt and other countries that the writer mentioned don't have that problem. Iran is the only country in the world that face such a problem.



by Reality-Bites on




by Reality-Bites on

for most Iranians there is an unbridgeable gap between what they want and how far they are prepared to go to get it.


mousa67 thats wishful thinking, under the circumstances

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

the west is united on being opposed to peace, progress, democracy and human rights for iran.  Much like the west opposes development for the rest of the region. To think otherwise is not to be deceived, its to be totally clueless in the first place.


Bahmani, Cyrus on your perceptions

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Truthfully you are not being totally honest with yourselves, you are being unfairly critical.


Iranians are in a state of immense decline, under these conditions the society is in a state of despair.  When basiji, police and ambulances drive over people who are peacefully protesting it causes certain imbalances in society, the extreme brutality is the norm.  You are critiquing a society that is the victim of a series of deadly deceits by its allies & its own politicians.  The reason most iranian people saw the late shah as dictator, unreasonably repressive, corrupt, torturer was not based on true facts, but based on colonialism & some iranian individuals gutlessly competing and being set up by outsiders.  I bet you the same country & people which produced the most vibrant developments can with time restore their freedom too. 





a very good & sober blog.

by mousa67 on

producing good evidence backed by solid data. i am sure that your findings are already noted by us/nato & israeli administrations.

my experience of dealing with iranians both inside and outside iran very much confirms your finding that iranian people are very much ahaead of other muslim nations in their desire for genuine liberal democracy. that a regime change in tehran would indeed lead to emergence of a thriving democracy in iran.

thank you for the good blog.


Darius Kadivar

As for our "Liberal Democrats" they have much explaining to do

by Darius Kadivar on

As to why they put us in the mess in the first place ...


How YOUR "Green" Color Was Chosen & By WHOME ! 



N'est ce Pas MONSIEUR Massoud Behnoud et MONSIEUR Golestan ? ...


Shadi Sadre's Rebuttal of Massoud Behnoud's Endorsement of IRI Constitution 


Ebrahim Golestan: "The Shah's Coronation Made Me Wanna Vomit" (BBC) 



Darius Kadivar

Besides what we always lacked is a GENUINE ...

by Darius Kadivar on

Besides what we always lacked is a GENUINE, VOCAL, and PATRIOTIC MAJORITY ... 


VOCAL MINORITY: Pro Shah and Pro Bakhtiar Demos amidst 1979 Revolution


Related Blog:


Pro Moussavi Supporters Try to Discourage Pro Pahlavi Supporters In Rome Rally 




Darius Kadivar

Bahmani Jan Brilliant !!! ... LOL

by Darius Kadivar on

Couldn't have said it better ...


'If you put us in a prison, but did not lock the gate, we'd sit there forever."

Unlike Americans, Iranians don't pursue happiness. They catch up to it, just to drive it off the road and into the ditch.






OK, now take your survey and add these words...

by bahmani on

to the end of each response:

"... except Iranians, Iranians don't believe any of that crap you just asked me, we are like cockroaches. We not only survive but thrive under the harshest conditions. If you put us in a prison, but did not lock the gate, we'd sit there forever."

Unlike Americans, Iranians don't pursue happiness. They catch up to it, just to drive it off the road and into the ditch.

To read more bahmani posts visit: //


Yuval you want a solution, first you need to

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

have an understanding of how we got here no?


Frankly resolving this is where Israels survival and success lies. Above was my response to a person on the so-called revolution of 1979 andhis suggestion that shah should have ordered military to execute mullahs.


This data does not matter to the USA, UK or France Governments

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

Which love extremist anti-secular islam for Iran.  Their Secret Services have far better analytics than your research. 

As a result of the efforts of the late Shahs team, Iran enjoyed the largest growth of middle class (percentage wise) in the whole world. However, Iranian society was intentionally sent back to the stone age as the old government was in the process of creating the secular Institutions necessary to transition towards a more democraic government. 

According to independent management experts, Iranians under no circumstance in the 1970's were yet in a positio to create harmonius teams of even 4 people. 

So a single national unity party system was proposed as a solution to the king, so Iranians could at least to run a single party on the idea of Iranian renewal. 

Had Iranians been ableto take that path, they would be far closer to democratic government than they are today.  However the point is this, they were deceived away from their own journey towards democracy.

Foreign Super Powers interference, showed that the last thing the west wants for the region in practice is human rights and democracy.  Their agenda is to speak in favor, but in practice to betray such systems.

Any experieced and well informed leader could have predicted everything the west has done and is continuing to do.  See Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, seethe attempts made in Egypt and Syria.  

It's clear what the agenda is, and the why is even easier when one researches the top 100 international companies in the world and their corporate interests in controlling over 70% of the worlds total production.

Of course when countries like the USA, UK, France & Israel work together in order to betray acountry and a people like Iranians, they can't expect to come up with any better result.

The Iranian siituation is a perfect example of what happens when profits are put infront of national security.  If national security mattered for the west, the west would not be playing this extreme colonialist game. 

Based on the activities of the west this last year, they are far away from changing even one mm away from this policy, which will be more painful for them in years to come as they are threatening their own national security.

The IRI is not containable and they are extremists.  With Russian, the EU, China, the USA all playing a zero sum game over control of the middle east the future will become far more dangerous.

Those who today are considered the strongest and most powerful, with time will have the most to lose.  We saw this when extremism, military alliances and colonialism danced together last in the first half of the last century.