A nationwide opinion poll in Iraq, commissioned by three major broadcasting organisations, suggests that most Iraqis think the
United States troop surge of the last six months has failed to improve their lives, instead making matters much worse.
Those polled were asked whether the increase of US forces in Baghdad and the surrounding areas had improved or worsened security, the pace of reconstruction, the conditions for political dialogue and the possibilities of economic development.
By large majorities in each case they said the situation had worsened.
Since the last poll, in March 2007, the number of people who want coalition forces to leave Iraq immediately has gone up sharply, from 35% earlier in the year to 47% now.
But a majority of those questioned (53%) said they should remain until security had been improved.
More generally, the poll suggests that people feel more pessimistic than they did six months ago about their lives and about the prospects for improvement in the medium and long term.
The poll was conducted by D3 Systems and KA Research Ltd for the BBC, ABC News and NHK of Japan.
More than 2,000 Iraqis were questioned in more than 450 neighbourhoods across all the 18 provinces of Iraq between 17 and 24 August 2007.
The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5%.
This is the fourth such poll in which BBC News has been involved. The previous ones were carried out in February 2004, November 2005 and February 2007.
The new poll was commissioned with the specific purpose of assessing the effects of the US “surge” over the past six months as well as tracking longer term trends in Iraq.
It is released on the day the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, are due to give Congress their assessment of the effects of the surge and the current situation in Iraq.
In 2005 64% of people polled thought their lives would be better in a year’s time; earlier this year that was down to 35% – now it is down again, to 29%
In 2005, 69% said the situation in Iraq as a whole would be better in a year’s time; earlier this year that was down to 40% – now that is down to 22%
Quality of life is still not improving, the poll suggests. The following numbers are the percentages of people who responded to questions with answers of “quite bad” or “very bad”:
Availability of jobs 80%
Availability of electricity 93%
Availability of clean water 75%
Availability of fuel for cooking or driving 92%
The surge: people were asked whether the troop surge of the last six months had made things better or worse in key areas. These figures are the percentages of those who answered “worse”:
Security in the areas the troops were sent to 70%
Security elsewhere 68%
Conditions for political dialogue 70%
Pace of reconstruction 67%
Pace of economic development 67%
Those questioned were also losing confidence in the Iraqi government and its prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Sixty-one per cent said that they did not have very much, or had no confidence, in the government, up from 51% in February, and 41% in 2005.
In addition 66% said they disapproved of the way the prime minister was doing his job.
But a majority of those questioned, 62%, still favour a united Iraq with a central government in Baghdad.
The poll also illustrates the different approaches of the religious groups.
Although 55% of Sunnis and 51% of Shias polled said they “never” attend a mosque, the poll reflected very striking differences in attitude between the two groups.
Sunnis were far and away the most pessimistic group when it came to judging the present and future condition of Iraq.
For example, when asked about how things were going in their life these days, 88% of Sunnis answered “bad” and 54% of Shias said “good”.
And Sunnis were much more willing to contemplate violence against US and coalition forces – 93% of Sunnis said attacks on coalition forces were acceptable, compared with 50% of Shias.