Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jun/09

19

Iran, is it that polarized by class?

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Like many people I don’t know that much about what’s going on in Iran besides what I read. An Iranian American friend asked me what I thought would happen…which I think goes to show that we’re all in uncharted waters here. But one of the talking points which regularly emerges are the cleavages in Iranian society along the lines of class. An extreme caricature of a common perception might be that the religious population of South Tehran are typical Middle Easterners in their mores and attitudes, while the fashionable folk of North Tehran, with their nose jobs, would easily fit in to Tehrangeles.

Though I do not doubt that class is a major predictor of political affinity in Iran today, I do think that one should not overstate the differences across Iranian society in terms of social attitudes as a function of class. I say this because my own knowledge of “Iranians” comes through Iranian Americans, so when I first looked at Iran in the World Values Survey I was expecting a large minority of social liberals in a Western sense with anti-religious sentiments. As it happens I didn’t find it, rather, Iran is a moderately conservative Middle Eastern country, with significant, but not stark, differences by class when it comes to views on “hot button” issues.

Instead of making arguments, I’ll offer some numbers. Below are a list of issues from WVS wave 5 (taken in 2005) for Iran. You can see there are differences by class. You can also see that there is a great deal of overlap.


Upper Middle Middle Lower
Important in life: Religion


Very important 78.0% 78.8% 80.9%
Rather important 16.6% 16.2% 14.1%
Not very important 4.2% 3.7% 2.7%
Not at all important 1.2% 1.2% 2.4%
Total 994 1232 376
Active/Inactive in religious organization


Not a member 64.4% 58.1% 61.1%
Inactive member 18.3% 20.1% 16.3%
Active member 17.4% 21.8% 22.7%
Total 991 1227 375
Men should have more right to job than women


Agree 64.5% 72.8% 70.8%
Disagree 20.9% 13.1% 16.2%
Neither 14.5% 14.1% 13.0%
Total 990 1227 377
Men make better executives than women


Agree strongly 16.9% 22.7% 24.3%
Agree 57.3% 59.4% 55.7%
Disagree 19.3% 13.7% 14.9%
Strongly disagree 6.6% 4.2% 5.1%
Total 991 1228 375
Men make better political leaders than women


Agree strongly 18.6% 27.6% 25.8%
Agree 55.6% 54.5% 53.8%
Disagree 19.6% 14.4% 15.9%
Strongly disagree 6.3% 3.4% 4.6%
Total 990 1227 372
University is more important for a boy than girl


Agree strongly 10.2% 14.5% 16.8%
Agree 39.1% 43.9% 46.7%
Disagree 34.3% 29.0% 25.9%
Strongly disagree 16.4% 12.6% 10.7%
Total 992 1230 375
Women as single parent


Approve 2.7% 2.4% 3.2%
Disapprove 90.3% 92.8% 93.0%
Depends 6.9% 4.9% 3.8%
Total 994 1229 373
Wealth accumulation


People can only get rich at the expense of others 17.2% 18.2% 23.2%
2 10.2% 9.9% 12.3%
3 8.7% 10.0% 9.6%
4 7.4% 10.3% 5.9%
5 14.2% 13.9% 13.3%
6 7.9% 6.3% 6.4%
7 5.4% 6.1% 6.1%
8 8.3% 8.5% 7.7%
9 7.6% 7.5% 6.4%
Wealth can grow so there´s enough for everyone 13.2% 9.3% 9.1%
Total 988 1219 375
Confidence in religious institutions


A great deal 40.3% 44.6% 51.3%
Quite a lot 32.5% 31.6% 26.6%
Not very much 24.0% 22.0% 18.1%
None at all 3.2% 1.8% 4.0%
Total 988 1233 376
Confidence in women’s movement


A great deal 8.4% 10.9% 13.1%
Quite a lot 26.2% 25.2% 25.3%
Not very much 59.9% 57.7% 53.6%
None at all 5.5% 6.2% 8.0%
Total 939 1145 336
Party vote first choice


I Not would 2.3% 1.7% 1.7%
None 4.6% 5.8% 4.5%
Other 3.1% 3.9% 5.9%
IR: Fundamentalists 20.9% 25.3% 24.6%
IR: Reformists 43.1% 34.5% 34.9%
IR: Indepedents 26.0% 28.8% 28.4%
Total 894 1038 289
Religious authorities interpret the laws


Not an essential characteristic of democracy 15.6% 13.1% 14.3%
2 7.3% 8.7% 7.1%
3 8.0% 8.2% 5.8%
4 8.5% 8.4% 6.0%
5 16.6% 14.4% 14.3%
6 10.1% 9.6% 9.6%
7 9.1% 11.5% 12.1%
8 10.5% 9.0% 13.5%
9 6.9% 7.1% 5.2%
An essential characteristic of democracy 7.5% 10.0% 12.1%
Total 976 1208 364
How often do you attend religious services?


More than once a week 18.1% 22.2% 27.9%
Once a week 12.7% 15.0% 14.9%
Once a month 9.5% 9.3% 12.7%
Only on special holy days/Christmas/Easter days 25.2% 25.3% 17.4%
Once a year 7.1% 7.1% 4.4%
Never practically never 27.3% 21.1% 22.7%
Total 943 1175 362
Religious person?


A religious person 80.8% 86.5% 85.2%
Not a religious person 19.1% 13.4% 14.8%
A convinced atheist 0.1% 0.2% -
Total 967 1191 365
Religious leaders should not influence government


Agree strongly 16.1% 17.7% 18.7%
Agree 27.3% 27.7% 25.4%
Neither agree or disagree 29.3% 26.9% 25.9%
Disagree 21.3% 21.8% 24.9%
Strongly disagree 6.1% 5.8% 5.1%
Total 990 1223 374
Homosexuality


Never justifiable 82.7% 82.1% 84.1%
2 8.0% 8.6% 7.5%
3 2.1% 3.0% 3.5%
4 1.2% 1.3% 1.1%
5 1.2% 1.4% 1.3%
6 0.4% 0.7% 0.3%
7 1.1% 0.6% 0.8%
8 1.3% 0.9% 0.3%
9 0.7% 0.2% 0.5%
Always justifiable 1.2% 1.2% 0.5%
Total 987 1219 371
Abortion


Never justifiable 59.8% 62.9% 61.3%
2 10.6% 9.7% 11.5%
3 7.7% 5.9% 7.5%
4 4.8% 4.8% 2.4%
5 6.6% 7.9% 8.5%
6 2.9% 2.6% 2.9%
7 2.3% 1.7% 2.4%
8 2.0% 2.0% 0.8%
9 1.1% 0.7% 1.6%
Always justifiable 2.2% 1.8% 1.1%
Total 989 1230 375
How proud of nationality


Very proud 63.7% 62.7% 64.7%
Quite proud 28.9% 29.2% 24.9%
Not very proud 5.4% 6.2% 7.2%
Not at all proud 1.9% 1.9% 3.2%
Total 993 1233 374

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7 comments

  • a few thoughts re: iran. 1) there are t… « Talk Islam · June 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    [...] 3) the world values survey tells us that we shouldn’t overestimate class polarization in iran. see data here. [...]

  • Ken_K · June 21, 2009 at 7:52 am

    I am no foreign policy expert myself but I have to say that I just don’t get all the uproar for Obama/USA/”world community and so forth to “do something” about Iran. As near as I can determine Musavi (the loser) is just as much an ultra-nationalist Shia extremist as Amadinejad and who hates America, western liberal values, and who supports nuclear weapons and terrorism just as much as he does. So ah..what’s the benefit of backing him? Iran is a dogmatic theocracy now and presumably would remain so under Musavi. So why the clamor for America to “do something”?

  • kurt9 · June 23, 2009 at 7:43 am

    So why the clamor for America to “do something”?

    Because most Americans like to believe that the rest of the world is just like us and that the only reason why they do not become like us is because of “oppressive” governments. We have been the “missionary” country at least since the Spanish-American War. We seek to convert the rest of the world to “Americanism”.

    Most Americans can’t handle the idea that many people in the rest of the world actually might not want to become like us. Listening to music on a iPod does not automatically make one a western liberal.

    So, we blame it on those oppressive governments and think that the guy that got cheated out of the election is really a liberal reformer when he really is not.

  • Ken_K · June 24, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Aside from making modern American conservatives more secular the next thing I’s sure would like to see us take up a much, much, less interventionist foreign policy. Get American political culture’s default back to what J.Q. Adams said about “not going abroad looking for monsters to destroy.” But the neo-con influence acts as a strangle hold on moving in that direction making “doing something” about every damn foreign policy development the default. Much work to do here.

  • John · June 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

    The point of speaking out for the protesters is not to get Mousavi (who is almost as bad as Amadinejad) in power. It is encourage people to reject the theocratic Iranian state altogether. Even if if doesn’t happen now, seeds will be planted that will bear fruit in the future. Sometimes words do matter. Eastern European patriots were encouraged when Reagan referred to the USSR as an “evil empire”. They realized that leaders in America finally got it. The Cold War didn’t end with an American invasion. It happened as a result of the will of the people.

    Nobody pretends that the result of a successful revolution will be a paradise. Eastern Europe still has problems, and Russia is a problem. However, I would much rather Putin’s Russia than Brezhnev’s USSR to deal with. Isolationism doesn’t work. History has proved it again and again. We need a strong foriegn policy that advocats freedom and American interests.

  • Ken_K · June 25, 2009 at 8:41 am

    @John
    I seriously doubt Iranians give a flying %^&$ what America and the west think about anything. If they want to vote for one religious nut over another what is difference? Other than of style, none. Leave the Iranians to sort out their own affairs without interference. That is what Americans would expect from Iranians the next time America has some sort of internal political dispute. That is what principled secular conservatives should advocate in the foreign policy field IMHO.

  • sg · June 30, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    The lack of complaint from the US shows that US doesn’t give a crap about democracy and free and fair elections if neither of the candidates suits us. We look like total hypocrites. The only time we care is if there is a candidate we like. It is a very principled argument. If you really believe people have the right to elect Tweedle Dee or Twaddle Dum, then a stolen election matters on principle. However, if it is just a matter of not having a dog in the fight, therefore it takes a week to complain that protesters are being shot in the streets, then the world has a clear view of our disingenuous prattle about democracy.

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