In a piece in The Wall Street Journal (reposted here at the survey website), Yuval Porat, an Israeli strategic consultant, presented the findings of a survey conducted by a group of Israeli researchers to measure the tendency toward liberal democracy in Iranian society:
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.
For a recent systematic analysis of popular support for democracy in Iran see my post here.