From March 22 to April 2, 60 trained Iraqi pollsters
randomly selected Iraqis for USA Today. This is one of the first polls in
Iraq that seems to me well weighted statistically, though to be sure we'd have
to know more than USA Today told us.
The numbers are negative for the US, and are much more negative than previous
such polls. Moreover, the polling ended by April 2, just before the Shiite uprising
and the worst of the Fallujah fighting, so that it is highly likely that
the present attitudes of the Iraqi public toward the US are much more
Amazingly, 57% of Iraqis say that US troops should leave Iraq immediately.
If one subtracted the Kurds, a much higher percentage of Arabic speaking Iraqis
say this. And, they say it with their eyes open. About 57% also admit that life
would get harder (i.e. there would be a lot of instability) if the US suddenly
withdrew. They want the US gone anyway, and will take their chances.
Over half say there are circumstances under which it is all right to attack
A February poll I discussed here had said that only 10% of Iraqi Shiites
held that attacks on US troops were ever justified, and 30% of Sunni Arabs felt
that way. The number in al-Anbar province (think Fallujah) was 70%, but it was
high for Iraq at that time. Again, if the earlier polling was correct, there
was a massive shift in opinion on this matter. We went from having about 3 million
Iraqis think it was all right to attack US troops to more than 13 million.
[My earlier comment on the Feb. poll: "That is, the poll actually shows that
in absolute numbers, there are more Shiites who approve of attacks on Americans
than there are Sunni Arabs. The numbers bring into question the official line
that there are no problems in the South, only in the Sunni Arab heartland. The
other problem is that attitudes change, and sometimes they change rapidly. The
US cannot count on the percentage of Shiites who approve of attacks on its troops
remaining at 10% if it is strafing Sadr City in Baghdad. Every 1% increase in
the number of Shiites who approve of attacks equals 160,000 new enemies.").
For the question, "Has the Coalition invasion of Iraq done more harm than
good?", in the USA Today poll 46% say "more harm," whereas only 33% say "more
good." But the ethnic breakdown here is startling. Only 2% of Kurds say the
invasion did more harm. 56% of Sunni Arabs say it did more harm, and so do 59%
of Baghdadis (Baghdad is about 2/5s Shiite but the Shiites there are probably
Sadrists in the majority, who agree with most Sunnis about the undesirability
of the US presence). Among Shiites, 47% say it did more harm, 28% say it did
More harm: Total 45%, Baghdad 59%, Shiite 47%, Sunni Arab 56%, Kurds 2%
More good: Total 33%
About the Same: Total 16%
To the question of whether coalition military forces are mainly liberators
or mainly occupiers, 71% said occupiers. The percentage among Arabs, both Sunni
and Shiite, who said this, was about 80%. The Kurds mostly disagreed, which
brought the numbers down. (The US never put that many troops in the Kurdish
north, depending on the peshmerga fighters, so the Kurds are in fact much less
occupied than the Arabs).
An opinion poll done by an Iraqi institute a couple of months ago found that
about 47% of Iraqis said that the US invasion was a source of humiliation, and
48% said it was a liberation. If that poll was valid, it means that there was
a massive shift in opinion by late March and a big growth in anti-Americanism.
Based on my close reading of the Iraqi press and reports of sermons, I believe
that the Israeli murder of Hamas clerical leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on March
22 was the turning point in the big spike in anti-American feeling. There were
lots of demonstrations that the Western press did not cover, and a lot of oratory.
Regarding George Bush, 55% of Iraqis have an unfavorable view of him, and
if we exclude the 4 million Kurds and just look at the Arabs, his unfavorable
rating is above 60% for both Sunnis and Shiites. Since Iraq is now for all practical
purposes the 51st state, I say we let the Iraqis vote in the US elections in
Oddly, 61% of Iraqis still say that the US invasion and overthrow of Saddam
was worth it (though only 28% of Sunni Arabs say it was worth it). That is,
the poll does not show that Iraqis have begun regretting the US overthrow
of Sadam. It shows that they have begun regretting the continued US Occupation.
And, the bad news is that despite the ballyhooed transfer of sovereignty on
June 30, the actual US occupation is likely to last for a decade unless Iraqis
throw the US out. And given their present mood, one should not dismiss the possibility
that that is what they will do.