Iranian Media on the U.S. Election

In Iran, both hardline and reformist media provided extensive coverage of the U.S. presidential election but from widely divergent viewpoints. How America voted could have sweeping military, diplomatic and economic impact on the Islamic Republic over the next four years, especially because the two candidates have disparate positions on what the United States should do to contain Tehran’s nuclear program. “Who is better for Iran: Joe Biden or Donald Trump?” read a front-page headline in Ebtekar, a centrist newspaper, on September 23. President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions in 2018 to squeeze Iran into a broader agreement restricting its missile program, support for militant groups and influence in the Middle East. Former Vice President Biden supported the accord—brokered by the world’s six major powers during the Obama administration—and has pledged to return to it.

In their coverage, conservative and hardline papers sowed doubt about the integrity of the U.S. vote and devoted space to Trump’s claim that there could be widespread fraud in the mail-in voting. Javan, a hardline paper, quoted Trump’s warning in August that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” Hardline papers also speculated that the Supreme Court would rule in Trump’s favor if the outcome was disputed. “He knows that if he’s to bring his dispute with Biden to the Supreme Court, his victory is certain given the high presence of Republicans on the court,” Vatan-e Emrooz reported on September 26.

In editorials, the conservative newspapers reported that the world had lost faith in the U.S. form of democracy. “The message that is being conveyed to the world today from the Democrats and Republicans is the same: the world power, America, is not even capable of holding a sound election,” Vatan-e Emrooz, a conservative paper, reported on August 19. American voters had also lost faith in the vote, papers reported. “New polls show that the American people also do not have confidence in free and fair elections in their country,” Kayhan, a hardline paper, reported on September 21.

Centrist publications focused on Biden’s promised return to steadier diplomacy. “What may make Biden’s victory important for us Iranians, more than anything, is that U.S. policy will become more predictable,” Ebtekar, a centrist newspaper, reported on September 23.

Reformist papers expressed hope that a Biden victory would improve U.S.-Iran relations. “The Democratic presidential candidate claimed that if Iran resumes its commitments, the United States will return” to the nuclear deal, Mardom Salari, a reformist paper, reported on September 12.

Both reformist and centrist media gave Biden the edge after the first presidential debate on September 29. “Based on polls, this debate ended in Biden's favor, but supporters of Trump believe that there is a way to overtake Biden,” Sazandegi, a centrist paper, reported on October 1. The following are selected frontpages from Iranian newspapers.


Mardom Salari logo

Mardom Salari  September 12, 2020

Biden: I'll Return to the JCPOA 
Trump: I'll Make a Deal with Iran in the Span of One Month

Sept 12 Mardom



Oct 1 Aftab

Aftab-e Yazd   October 1, 2020

Black Debate for White House

First Trump-Biden Debate Held in Tense Atmosphere

Oct 1 Aftab Yazd



Arman Melli masthead

Arman-e Melli   October 1, 2020

Biden Won the First Debate

Trump's behavior has political and social origins. Biden's victory benefits Iran's foreign policy. 

Oct 1 Arman Melli



Oct 1 Mardom

Mardom Salari   October 1, 2020

Angry and Wild

Trump and Biden got into a fight in the first debate. Biden told Trump: "Will you shut up, man?" The results of a CNN poll show that 6 out of every 10 viewers of the Tuesday night U.S. presidential debate said that Biden had the best performance in this match. Only 28 percent had this opinion about Trump. 

Oct 1 Mardom



Sharg masthead

Shargh  October 1, 2020

Embarrassment in Ohio

How American Media Described First Debate

Oct 1 Shargh



Mardom Salari logo

Mardom Salari  October 13, 2020

War of the Polls for the Elections 

Trump is behind but it's not a definite defeat. 

Oct 13 Mardom



Sharg masthead

Shargh  October 20, 2020

Look at the Biden and Trump Administration's Possible Cabinets

Will John Kerry become a foreign policy advisor? Options for Biden's State Department: Susan Rice, William Burns, Chris Murphy and Chris Coons.
The chances of change in Trump's diplomacy team are not high. Mike Pompeo, Steve Mnuchin, Robert O'Brien and Kelly Craft will likely stay. 

Oct 20 Shargh



Mardom Salari logo

Mardom Salari  October 21, 2020

Presidential Debate with Muted Microphones

Americans Await Thursday's Debate

Oct 21 Mardom



Arman Melli masthead

Arman-e Melli   October 24, 2020

Dispute Without a Winner

Polls suggest that the last debate had no effect on the two candidates' votes. 

Oct 24 Arman




Ebtekar  September 23, 2020

Who is Better for Iran: Joe Biden or Donald Trump?

Sept 23 Ebtekar


Sazandegi  October 1, 2020

Fight Club

The first debate between Trump and Biden, the two main nominees for the U.S. presidential election, took place in an atmosphere full of commotion and accusations against each other. Based on polls, this debate ended in Biden's favor, but supporters of Trump believe that there is a way to overtake Biden.

Oct 1 Sazandegi


Ebtekar  October 1, 2020

Trump-Biden Fight in Debate Ring

Oct 1 Ebtekar


Ebtekar  October 10, 2020

Debate Deadlock in America

Debates in the U.S. have taken on new dimensions.

Oct 10 Ebtekar



Donya logo

Donya ya Eghtesad   October 24, 2020

Weighing in on the Candidates After the Last Debate

Oct 24 Donya


Hamshahri  November 2, 2020

Two Faces of One Election

Nov 2 Hamshahri


Sazandegi  November 4, 2020

Game of Thrones

Nov 4 Sazandegi




Conservative and Hardline

Masthead for Vatan

Vatan-e Emrooz   August 19, 2020

Democrats: If Trump Intends to Cheat, Pour Into the Streets
Trump: The Only Way I Would Lose is Fraud! 

With less than three months before the U.S. elections, the two sides, by accusing each other of fraud, paint a scene of instability in the country.

Aug 19 Vatan


Javan   August 19, 2020

Trump: If I'm Not Re-Elected, It's Been Rigged

Asked if he would resort to fraud to win the presidential election, the U.S. president himself questioned the electoral process, saying that if he loses in November, it's been rigged.

Aug 19 Javan



Vatan masthead

Vatan-e Emrooz   September 26, 2020

Trump: There Will Be No Power Transition

In response to a question about his commitment to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election.

Sept 26 Vatan



Kayhan logo

 Kayhan    October 1, 2020

Don't Continue the Debates 
America's Reputation was Ruined

The first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden turned out to be a complete disgrace for the United States because both sides applied the worst language and insulted each other.

Oct 1 Kayhan




Sobh-e No October 10, 2020


Trump's new sanctions and insults against Iran are signs of turmoil in his election campaign. Trump falls in the polls after the Pence-Harris debate.

Oct 10 Sobh


Javan   October 1, 2020

Be Ready for a Civil War in America

The prime minister of Canada announced that the country is preparing itself for a possible U.S. civil war. On the other hand, there was a plot to kidnap Ms. Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, who has a large role in the elections for the Democrats. The fire of an electoral war in the U.S. has been ignited.

Oct 10 Javan



Vatan masthead

Vatan-e Emrooz   October 18, 2020

Committee for the Protection of Votes

The Trump campaign intends to enlist 50,000 observers from across America to combat electoral fraud.​

Oct 18 Vatan



Vatan masthead

Vatan-e Emrooz   October 24, 2020

Corrupt: The Next President of the United States

In the last debate, Trump and Biden revealed each other's corruption in an unprecedented way.​

Oct 24 Vatan



Iran Logo

Iran   October 31, 2020

If Trump is Re-elected

If Biden is Elected

Oct 31 Iran


Javan   November 2, 2020

Tensions of the United States


Javan November 2
Photo Credits: All photos from Iran Front Pages (CC By 4.0)

Ashley Lane and Caitlin Crahan, research assistants at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, assembled this report. Andrew Hanna, a program specialist at the United States Institute of Peace, updated this report.