New Iraqi Opinion Poll

It’s exactly a month since my last post based on an Iraqi opinion poll, so thanks to a commenter by the unlikely name of “Il Morto Qui Parla” for directing me towards this recent poll, conducted for for by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. Although much of the commentary about the previous poll chose to concentrate solely on Iraqis’ hostility to the occupation, there was grounds for optimism in the shift of opinion away from sectarianism and towards secular democracy, and you won’t be surprised to learn that the same pattern has repeated itself this time. I’ll leave others to determine what these latest findings might mean for “imperialist states and their apologists”, and focus instead on the results themselves, and what they say about the future prospects for Iraq.

First though, the “bad news” for imperialists is that 71% of Iraqis want US-led forces to withdraw within a year, and 61% approve of resistance attacks against US forces. If US-led forces were to withdraw within the next 6 months, 58% of Iraqis believe this would lead to a fall in inter-ethnic violence, and 61% believe there would be an improvement in improve day-to-day security. As the report says, “An overwhelming majority believes that the US military presence in Iraq is provoking more violence than it is preventing”. All of this must be very dispiriting for anybody who supports a permanent American military presence in Iraq. I sincerely hope so. The report suggests that this hostility to US troops is related to the belief, held by 77% of Iraqis, that the US is planning permanent military bases, and says that the high approval rating for attacks on US forces might be “not because they are so eager for the US-led forces to get out immediately, but because they want to put pressure on the US to get out eventually” (my italics). Significantly, of the 61% who support attacks on US-forces, more than half say that their support would diminish if the US announced a commitment to withdraw its forces.

While on the subject of resistance, you’ll be all too familiar with blather about the “145 military operations every day, which has made the country ungovernable”, or how “we cannot afford to be choosy”. It seems however that Iraqis are quite extraordinarily choosy about what forms of resistance they support. In the previous PIPA poll, taken in January this year, 99% of Iraqis said they disapproved of attacks on civilians, with 95% disapproving strongly. Since then opinion has swung away from those supporting attacks on civilians. The figure is now 100%.

Other findings include:

  • Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are rejected by overwhelming majorities of Shias and Kurds and large majorities of Sunnis: 94% expressed an “unfavourable” view of Al Qaeda, with 82% expressing a “very unfavourable” view. The “unfavourable” figure included 77% of Sunnis. 93% expressed an unfavourable view of Osama bin Laden, with 77% very unfavourable. The unfavourable figure included 71% of Sunnis.
  • Some support remains for a US presence in a non-military capacity, with 63% approving of the US continuing to train Iraqi security forces, and 68% supporting the US in “helping Iraqis organize their communities to address local needs such as building schools and health clinics”. Again, this is linked to the withdrawal of US forces. Of those expressing disapproval of a non-military US role, more than half said they’d be more likely to support such a role if a timetable for withdrawal was agreed.
  • Confidence in the Iraqi security forces is rising: 70% expressed confidence in the police, 64% in the army and 62% the Interior Ministry. 56% said they believed that in 6 months Iraqi security forces would be strong enough to cope with security challenges on their own, up from 39% in January. 63% believe the government is doing a very or somewhat good job.
  • Militias are seen as the problem rather than the solution: 77% support “a strong government that would get rid of militias”, while only 21% preferred to continue to have militias. Support for militias was highest among Shias, but even then only 33% preferred militias to a strong central government. 68% of Iraqis said that they’d be able to rely on the government to ensure security if the militias were to disband.
  • The report states that “majorities of all groups do not favor a movement towards a looser confederation and believe that five years from now Iraq will still be a single state” (72%). Only 37% believe that the central government has too much power, and 65% see it as “the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people”.

    And last but not least:

  • 61% continue to believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships entailed. This includes 75% of Shias and 81% of Kurds. The 61% figure is down from 77% in January 2006, but is consistent with previous polls from 2004. The report suggests that the high January figure “may have been influenced by optimism over the election in December 2005”.

    Have a look for yourself at the complete report and the questionnaire, and feel free to use the comments to point out anything I’ve missed out, or tell me if you think I’ve painted too rosy a picture. But my reaction was one of cautious optimism. Lenin says that “the latest news for the occupiers is extremely bad”; the news for Iraqis looks better.

    (Hat tip: Il Morto Qui Parla in the comments).