Iraq: March 17, 2004


A large scale opinion survey in Iraq, sponsored by several foreign media networks, found that 70 percent of Iraqis thought they were doing well, and 56 percent believed life was better than before the war. Some 70 percent were optimistic about the future. 

Iraqis are glad to see Saddam gone, but upset that foreigners had to do it. Thus 49 percent thought the coalition invasion was justified, while 39 percent think it was wrong. While 41.8 percent said the war liberated Iraq, 41.2 percent said Iraq was humiliated. Only 39 percent wanted foreign troops to remain in the country. As for the attacks on foreign troops, 17 percent approved (21 percent of Iraqi Arabs approved of this, but only two percent of Iraqi Kurds.) Overall, 78 percent said the attacks on coalition troops were unacceptable, although that went up to 96.6 percent for attacks on Iraqi police. Understandably, lack of law and order is seen as the most pressing need (22.1 percent of respondents), followed by unemployment (11.8 percent), inflation (9.5 percent), electricity shortages (4.2 percent), housing problems (4.1 percent) and the quality of infrastructure (water supply, road repair and so on, 3.7 percent). The events that make headlines outside of Iraq mean little to the average Iraqi, as only 1.8 percent thought terrorist attacks were the most important issue in their lives, and only .2 percent were concerned about religious and ethnic strife inside Iraq. 

Only 20 percent of Iraqis wanted an Islamic state, and 75 percent wanted a strong, unified state, without special privileges for Kurds or anyone else. Religious leaders are trusted the most (by 42.4 percent), and coalition forces the least (4.3 percent). Iraqis now want democratically elected leaders (55.3 percent), but even more they want a strong leader. Saddam Hussein is still respected for his "power" by many Iraqis. While 15.1 percent of Iraqis want coalition forces to leave immediately, 53.3 percent want them to stay until a functioning Iraqi government is in place, or peace is restored to the country.

The survey was conducted by Iraqis, who were hired and trained by the polling organization, Oxford Research International. One thing the survey makes very clear is that most foreign media reporting on Iraq are reporting what they want to see the Iraqi people thinking, not what the Iraqis are actually thinking. This, however, is not unique to Iraq, although European and Arab media tend to be even more distorted in their reporting than is usually the case. 

Anti-government Iraqis recognize what is going on and are making more efforts to attack aid workers and Iraqi police. Six foreign aid workers have been murdered in the past two days.


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