ABC/Time Poll on Iraq
The full tabulation of the new ABC News/Time, et al., poll on Iraq is in pdf format on the web. Although a lot of Iraqis are optimistic about the future, and a lot say things aren’t going so badly for them personally, their view of where the country is at presently is quite dark. In fact, these attitudes are almost the opposite of the impression we are given of Iraqi attitudes in most of the US mainstream press.
Let’s look at some key findings:
Things are going badly in Iraq today: 52% (30% say “very badly”).
There has been no improvement since Saddam fell or things are worse: 60%
It was wrong for the US to invade Iraq: 50%
(Only 19% say it was “absolutely right” for the US to invade)
Oppose presence of Coalition troops in Iraq: 65%
Iraq needs a government made up mainly of religious leaders: 48%
Iraq needs a government made up mainly of military leaders: 49%
Iraq needs a strong single leader: 91%
Iraq needs an Iraqi democracy: 90%
40% of Iraqis want a dictatorship and/or an Islamic State ((down from 49% in Feb.)
58% of Iraqis want “democracy” (up from 49% in Feb.)
The problem with an item like this is that we don’t know what they mean by “democracy.” Over 80% of Egyptians said in one poll that democracy is the best form of government, and then 64% of them turned around and said they were satisfied with the Mubarak regime (a soft military dictatorship). So Egyptians didn’t mean by “democracy” what Americans would have.
Actually, for most Middle Easterners, “democracy” implies self-determination. By that measure, Iraq is not very democratic at the moment.
The poll seems to define democracy as the principle that leaders are replaced from time to time. If that is all that the 90% want, it doesn’t tell us much.
The other problem is that I find it a little difficult to believe that basic ideologies like these have shifted so massively in only a few months, and I suspect we’d be better off averaging the two for 2005 results than in assuming we are seing trends here.
Finally, there are some obvious contradictions. 48% want rule by mulla, but only 13% want an Islamic state. How does that make sense?
In any case, given the February findings, it seems likely to me that a good half of Iraqis still do not want Western-style democracy, which is not very heartening. Moreover, half of Iraqis don’t believe that the US should have come there, 60% think it made no difference or actually made things worse, and 2/3s want US troops out.