Polls show Iraqis live surrounded by violence, distrust US
Two new Iraqi-opinion polls released days before the four-year anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, show contrasting hopes for future Sunni-Shiite relations, a high level of violence experienced by many Iraqis, a strongly negative opinion of US-led foreign forces, and a sectarian split on whether Iraq is currently embroiled in a civil war.Skip to next paragraph
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A poll (pdf) by the British Market research firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) indicates that while Iraqis have experienced a great deal of personal tragedy since the March 20, 2003, invasion, many Iraqis feel better under the current political system than the one ruled by Mr. Hussein.
One in four (26%) Iraqi adults have had a family relative murdered in the last three years, while 23% of those living in Baghdad have had a family/relative kidnapped in the last three years.
These are among the findings released today from the largest poll into Iraqi opinion ever to be published. Carried out by UK research firm ORB, which has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005, the poll shows that despite the horrendous personal security problems only 26% of the country preferred life under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, with almost half (49%) preferring life under the current political system. As one may expect, it is the Sunnis who are most likely to back the previous regime (51%) with the Shias (66%) preferring the current arrangements.
London's Sunday Times, which published the ORB poll on Sunday, reports that the findings show that support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has almost doubled over the past six months.
Maliki, who derives a significant element of his support from Moqtada al-Sadr, the hardline Shi'ite militant, and his Mahdi army, has begun trying to overcome criticism that his government favours the Shi'ites, going out of his way to be seen with Sunni tribal leaders. He is also under pressure from the US to include more Sunnis in an expected government reshuffle.
The poll suggests a significant increase in support for Maliki. A survey conducted by ORB in September last year found that only 29% of Iraqis had a favourable opinion of the prime minister.
The ORB poll also shows that a majority of Iraqis believe the security situation in Iraq will get better when the "multi national forces" leave Iraq, with 53 percent saying it will be "a great deal better" or "a little better" as opposed to 26% who say it will be "a great deal worse" or "a little worse." The numbers change when the respondents' religion is taken into account, with Sunni Muslims split between 42 percent "better" and 42 percent "worse," and Shiites predicting 62 percent "better" to 14 percent "worse," indicating that the Sunni Muslims, and more specifically, Sunni Arabs, are more hesitant to see the foreign forces leave. (The ORB poll doesn't differentiate between Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds, the latter of whom view the US-led forces more favorably and are less involved in Iraq's sectarian strife.)
Eighty percent of Iraqis report attacks nearby – car bombs, snipers, kidnappings, armed forces fighting each other or abusing civilians. It's worst by far in the capital of Baghdad, but by no means confined there.
The personal toll is enormous. More than half of Iraqis, 53 percent, have a close friend or relative who's been hurt or killed in the current violence. One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. Eighty-six percent worry about a loved one being hurt; two-thirds worry deeply. Huge numbers limit their daily activities to minimize risk. Seven in 10 report multiple signs of traumatic stress.