Poll suggests Iraqis ‘optimistic’

A poll of public opinion across Iraq, commissioned by four major broadcasters, suggests Iraqis are now more optimistic about their lives and the future than any other time in the last three years.

In the fifth survey of Iraqis taken, in February 2008, for the BBC, ABC News, ARD and NHK, 55% of those questioned say their lives are good, compared to 39% in the last poll in August 2007.

Broadly, people think life in the country will continue to improve, although there are still problems with the supply of basic facilities like electricity and water and the availability of jobs to which 70% of those questioned said was quite or very bad.

The survey suggests most people think security in their own area has improved since last year (62% in this survey, up from 43% last year), but that it is still the greatest problem facing the nation.

The majority of Iraqis believe the presence of US troops makes the security situation worse – yet the number who want the Americans to pull out immediately has fallen from last year.

Iraq’s sectarian divide is clearly reflected within the polling – with Sunnis noticeably less happy than their Shia countrymen. For example, when asked if their life is good, 62% of Shias say yes, up 12% on last year.

Thirty-three per cent of Sunnis say their lives are good, which is a 21% increase on last August, yet a majority of Sunnis are unhappy with their situation in contrast to the majority of Shias.

And the Kurds are the happiest of all, with 73% saying life is good.

Selected findings:

* In August 2007, 39% of Iraqis thought their life was good, that figure has now risen to 55%. But within that figure 62% of Shias are positive, compared to 33% of Sunnis.

* Forty-five per cent think their lives will be better next year, compared to 29% last August. Fifty-one per cent of Shias think so, compared to 29% of Sunnis.

* Forty-six per cent believe things will be better for Iraq overall next year, against 23% who thought that in August 2007, with 59% of Shias optimistic and 17% of Sunnis.

The survey also asks about security in Iraq, since last year’s US troop surge.

* 62% of those polled say security in their own area is good – up from 43% last year.

* 50% think that security is the biggest problem for the country overall.

* 53% think security in areas where the surge was concentrated is worse – down from 70% who thought that last August and 38% want US and coalition forces to leave now – down 9% from last year.

* 61% think the presence of US forces in Iraq makes the security situation worse, down from 72% last August.

Although confidence in the US army has also risen, although not to the level reached in the year after the invasion. In February 2004, 25% of Iraqis had confidence in the US and coalition troops. By August 2007 that had fallen to 14% and this February it was up to 20%. Within that the confidence of Sunnis in the US army stands at 3%, for Shias it is 18% and for Kurds 55%.

The sectarian split in opinion is clearly illustrated when respondents are asked who they think deserves the most credit for the improved security.

* 37% of Shias think it is due to the newly-created and predominantly Shia Al-Sahawa local councils. 21% of Sunnis give the credit to the Iraqi police.

Public confidence in the Iraqi government is also improving, having slumped from a high 53% in 2004 to 39% in March last year, 49% of those surveyed now have confidence in the national government.

And a central Government in Baghdad, ruling a unified nation, is still what most Iraqis want, with 66% saying it’s their preferred choice. Within that figure is far and away the favoured option for Sunnis, with 95% selecting it; 67% of Shias agree – but only 10% of Kurds.

There’s more BBC coverage here.