LAST JULY and August, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Independent Institute for Administrative and Civil Society Studies (IIACCS) conducted a poll on Iraq's public opinion. You know, the one that everyone seems to know by telepathic means, which conveniently allows anyone to say anything without bothering with minutiae like actually checking with real data.
I have hardly seen anything about this in the international media (and zero, zip, nada in Spain), and I can understand why; the results run against the totemic CW that "everything's going badly over there":
"Do you feel that Iraq is generally heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?" In July, 51 percent said right direction, 31 percent said wrong direction. An Annenburg survey from that same period in the United States did in fact show almost the opposite result (37 percent right track, 55 percent wrong track), as the president rightly observed. Thus, contrary to Lockhart's assertion, the president was well grounded in reality, very strongly hinged. Incidentally, of those who said Iraq is on the wrong track, only 5 percent said it is because of unemployment, which tends to undercut John Kerry's model of an insurgency being fuelled by the angry unemployed. He stated Monday that unemployment in Iraq is over 50 percent, and Al Jazeera reported in August that the rate was 70 percent. But polling over the summer showed unemployment typically in the teens. The nationwide figures were 14.1 percent in June, 13.8 percent in July, and just under 12 percent in August. There are of course regional variations; for example unemployment in the southern city of Umara was 35 percent in June (dropping to 25 percent in July) — but in Baghdad the unemployment rate was below the national average (12 percent in June and 9 percent in July). In Najaf the July rate was under 9 percent. Rates that high are nothing to crow about by our standards, but they make more sense than Kerry's inflated figures. Also worthy of note is the finding that average household monthly income increased 72 percent from October 2003 to June 2004, according to surveys conducted by Oxford Research International.By the way, note the unemployment figures, only a fraction of the "60% of Iraqis are out of work" mantra.
Levels of satisfaction in Iraq varied by region. Among the Kurds, 85 percent think life has improved since the fall of Saddam. In the Mid-Euphrates region and the south, 52 percent are more satisfied. In Baghdad there was a three-way split between better, worse, and don't know. And in the Sunni Triangle only 12 percent think things have gotten better, understandable given both the fact that they had enjoyed special privileges under Saddam, and those who are now denied those privileges are making life difficult for everybody. Naturally, the security situation is on people's minds. Around 70 percent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statements, "Life today is full of uncertainty" and "I am afraid for myself and my family." However, there were similar high scores agreeing to the statement "I am hopeful for the future," and the highest scoring statement of all was "I think things will slowly get better." Responses to these questions showed the same regional dynamics, with the Kurds being the most hopeful, but even in the Sunni areas a plurality (42.5 percent) believed things would get better, against only 29.2 percent thinking they would get worse. When Iraqis were asked what issues concerned them the most, crime ranked as the number one initial response, at 39 percent. The insurgency ranked fifth at only 6 percent. This focus on reducing crime ties in to a general result I noted citing polls in my last NRO piece, that the Iraqi police are the most respected group in the country. There is broad approval (in the 60-percent range across the board) for the government, judges, the police, the army, and national guard. Sixty-two percent rated the interim government as either very or somewhat effective, and sixty-six percent placed Prime Minister Allawi in the same category.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was quoted Thursday saying that if parts of Iraq are still too violent to hold elections, they should go forward anyway. The polls reveal why keeping to the timetable is so important. It is a matter of maintaining the legitimacy of the process. Seventy-eight percent rate fair elections as their most important political right, and eighty-seven percent plan to vote in the elections in January, a far greater participation rate than we can expect in this country. Three quarters view increased violence as either very or somewhat likely in the period leading up to the election, and a similar percentage sees that as an acceptable reason for a delay; but almost two-thirds would have a negative view of the elections if they were delayed for one month. Even if the U.N. said the elections were not fair, 53.6 percent see that as an unacceptable reason to delay voting. Most people believe that no current Iraqi political party represents their views, and most also believe that political parties are dividers not uniters. Forty-five percent would be less inclined to vote for a party that maintains its own militia, not surprising given the misbehavior of the Baath party. In the Metro/Retro race, 64 percent would prefer a traditional candidate, against 18 percent preferring one with more modern values.