Iraqi opinion poll: sectarians reviled

Something else you may have missed if you’re not a regular reader of the Tomb is a recent World Values Surveys poll of Iraqi public opinion, carried out by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University. Understandably Lenin chooses to focus on the number of Iraqis opposed to the presence of coalition troops, which has risen from 74.3% in 2004 to 91.7% now, with 84.5% of respondents “strongly” opposed, outnumbering the 3.6% who strongly support the troops’ presence by more than twenty to one. Hostility to the occupation can also be seen in the 76% of people who said they thought the main reason for the US invasion of Iraq was to control Iraqi oil, and in the 59% who agreed with the statement that “In Iraq these days life is unpredictable and dangerous”, up from 46% in 2004.

So it seems that Iraqis are as keen for the post-occupation era to begin as they were for the post-Saddam Hussein era. But some of the poll’s other findings suggest that the nature of the post-occupation era is going to be less sectarian and more secular than pessimists might have you believe. The number of people who strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated rose from 27% in 2004 to 41% now. And in Baghdad, where sectarian violence has been concentrated, there was a clear commitment to secular democracy and against religious government. A chart headed “Attitudes toward democracy, Islamic government, religion and politics, and national identity among the residents of Baghdad”, shows that the number of people describing Islamic government as “very good” fell from 19% to 13%. 58% of people said that democracy was the “ideal system”, up from 42% in 2004, and 51% strongly agreed with the separation of religion and politics, up from 30%. And the number of Baghdad residents agreeing with the statement “I am an Iraqi above all” rose from 30% in 2004 to 62% now.

According to Mansoor Moaddel, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University:

“The findings of this second survey show that even though Iraqis have a more negative attitude to foreigners, especially Americans, they are moving closer to American values and are developing a much stronger sense of national identity. Iraqis’ increasing attachment to national identity and increasing support for secular discourse may support the formation of a modern and democratic political order. Moreover, since the support for secular attitudes has gained considerable ground among the Sunnis, al-Qaeda may find it more difficult to recruit among this group in Iraq.”

In a contribution to this thread below, regular commenter Matt O’Halloran writes that “Saddam had to operate a dictatorship and reign of terror because those are the only terms on which a ‘modern’ polity can be implanted in a Middle Eastern country. Its default condition, now expressed through electoral mechanisms, is schism and sectarianism to the nth degree”. These poll results suggest that that isn’t the case. As Lenin says, “It is the sectarians of all groups and backgrounds that are increasingly reviled”.

Hat tip: Lenin’s Tomb.

Gene adds: A couple of points:

–As recently as last February, a BBC poll found that 74 percent of Iraqis agreed with the removal of Saddam Hussein– which was, of course, made possible by US and UK forces. It would have been interesting to get an update on this.

–A 2004 ABC News poll found that although 51 percent of Iraqis opposed the presence of coalition forces, only 15 percent wanted them to leave immediately. I don’t doubt that both figures have increased substantially. But it would have been useful to have the second percentage updated as well as the first.