A poll of public opinion across Iraq, commissioned by four major broadcasting organisations (BBC, ABC News, NHK and ARD) , suggests Iraqis are now more optimistic about their lives and the future than at any other time in the last three years.
In the fifth survey of Iraqis taken, in February 2008, for the BBC, ABC News, NHK and ARD, 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 such as 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.The poll was conducted by D3 Systems and KA Research Ltd for the BBC, ABC News, NHK of Japan and ARD of Germany. More than 2,000 Iraqis were questioned across all the provinces of Iraq between 12 and 20 February 2008. The margin of error is +/- 2.5%.Previous polls were in February 2004, November 2005, February 2007 and August 2007.
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.Sixty-two per cent of those polled say security in their own area is good – up from 43% last year.Fifty per cent think that security is the biggest problem for the country overall.Fifty-three per cent think security in areas where the surge was concentrated is worse – down from 70% who thought that last August.
Sixty-one per cent think the presence of US forces in Iraq makes the security situation worse, down from 72% last August.Thirty-eight per cent want US and coalition forces to leave now – down 9% from last year.
The sectarian split in opinion is clearly illustrated when respondents are asked who they think deserves the most credit for the improved security.Thirty per cent of Shias think it is due to the newly-created and predominantly Shia Al-Sahawa local councils.Twenty-one per cent of Sunnis give the credit to the Iraqi police.Overall 30% (the highest percentage) think it is due to someone other than the Iraqi authorities or militias.
According to the survey, the quality of life is still poor. The following numbers are the percentages of people who responded to the questions with answers of “quite bad” or “very bad”.
But the availability of basic household goods is now good for 69% of the population, whereas last year it was good for only 38%.
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.
And 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%.
In contrast public confidence in local militias has fallen since last year.In March 2007 it stood at 36%, by August of last year it was down to 24%, and it has fallen another 2% since then to 22%.Within that the steepest fall has been in Shia feelings about local militias.In March 2007, 51% of Shias had confidence in militias – this February that figure had declined to 28%.