It looks like the Obama administration has secured 42 votes for the Iran deal in the Senate, enough to filibuster even a vote, and despite today’s machinations in the House, the Iran Deal will likely go through. Indeed, when Republicans agreed back in May to a review process that would require a super-majority in both chambers to overturn the deal, the die was already somewhat cast. Still, I’m thrilled that supporters have been able to hold the line in the face of a multi-million dollar campaign against the agreement. In the final days, we’re seeing a surge in efforts to get views on the table from supporters and opponents.
In a stock-taking exercise, Foreign Affairs released the results ($) of a survey of a “broad pool of experts” about whether Congress should approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Deal for short. 32 of the 52 experts — 62% – answered “strongly agree” in support of Iran Deal. Adding in the “agree,” support rises to 72%.
The virtue of this survey is that individual respondents are on the record about where they stand. For many of them, there is a bit of explanatory text about their reasons. As the graphic above shows, they are asked to rate their level of support on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strong disagree.” They were asked to provide their confidence in their assessment on a 10 point scale, which, as my collaborator Craig Kafura noted, showed an extraordinarily high level of confidence in their judgments.
The public stance of individual respondents is important. Other magazine elite surveys will reveal who was surveyed but not their answers to particular questions so you can’t create a dataset to examine crosstabs between salient demographic characteristics and survey answers. Even anonymized versions of answers are almost never provided so you can read the write-up but not much more; the recent release of the revised Chicago Council elite surveys in which I participated is an exception.
Still, some of the attributes of this particular survey raise important questions about representativeness and who is actually being surveyed. I took the liberty of coding all the respondents’ responses, their gender, citizenship (to the extent this was easy to find), and I made some preliminary efforts to code partisanship (a Google doc is here, and if useful, I could crowd-source the partisanship field).
Congrats – You Have an (Almost) All Male Panel
Only 3 of the 52 — roughly 6% — respondents are women (including former head of the Carnegie Endowment Jessica Mathews, European-based Iran analyst Ellie Geranmayeh, and CNAS’ Elizabeth Rosenberg). Now, I know that international security and nuclear policy are male-dominated areas, but there were some obvious omissions of women expert in this arena, Cheryl Rofer and Kori Schake for starters, who could have been surveyed. To be fair, Foreign Affairs might have asked them or other women to participate and just had to go to press with whoever responded. That said, some of my concerns about the pool go beyond gender and raise other questions about how to draw inferences from surveys of elites in general and samples of convenience in particular. [Addendum: Foreign Affairs reached out to comment that the low response rates among women accounts for the final tally. They wrote: “In fact, we asked nearly a dozen women to participate in that survey–mostly actual Iran experts, fwiw–but only three of them responded.” The wider survey included people with deep expertise in nonproliferation or Iran, with a few prominent general figures of authority.] Continue reading