WASHINGTON, (AP) – Iraqis are finding their lives more hopeful but give the United States little credit for the improvement, an international media poll finds.
Instead, poll respondents credited the Iraqi government, police and army.
The poll, released Monday to observe this week’s fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, was commissioned by ABC News in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corp., ARD German TV and the Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The Bush administration has credited an increase of 30,000 troops for a decrease in violence, which it says has improved the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
In the poll, however, more than half the Iraqis, 53 percent, felt that the rapid buildup of U.S. troops in Anbar province and in Baghdad has made overall security worse, not better. Even those negative findings, however, were a sharp improvement since a similar poll last August. Then, 70 percent said the American buildup had made matters worse in the areas it had emphasized. Only 18 percent said it had improved their conditions then, compared with 36 percent now.
The nationwide poll found the Iraqis’ negative assessment of the rapid troop buildup came from all categories of respondents. Still, the poll responses reflected the overall improved assessment of conditions now as opposed to August, the month after the buildup was fully in place.
Regarding security, political dialogue, ability of the Iraqi government and economic development, 42 percent to 53 percent of the respondents found the situation worse. Those findings were down by 17 points to 27 points from the same questions eight months ago.
Poll organizers said such ratings reflect lingering negative feelings toward the March 2003 invasion.
“Direct ratings of the surge likely reflect the United States’ general unpopularity,” the poll’s writers said. When “viewed through the filter of general antipathy toward the United States,” they wrote, the drop in negative sentiment is notable.
In line with that, the poll’s findings on “views of the U.S. presence” in Iraq were the highest since the invasion. Asked whether the “invasion was right,” 49 percent said it was. The previous high had been 48 percent in the first poll of the series, by ABC News in February 2004, a virtual tie with the current level due to the poll’s 2.5 percent error margin.
In August, 57 percent of Iraqis had replied that it was “acceptable” to attack U.S. forces. The poll released Monday found that number had dropped to 42 percent.
Likewise, 47 percent said last August that the foreign coalition’s forces should leave Iraq. In the new poll, that had dropped to 38 percent.
The poll showed that Iraq’s sectarian problems remain huge. Asked to evaluate their own lives, the country’s current condition and whether they expect better lives for their children, the mood of the Sunni Muslim minority was bleaker than that of either the non-Arab Kurdish minority or the Shiite Arab majority.
More than eight in 10 Sunni Arabs said the condition of the country was bad; just over half of the Kurds, most of whom are Sunni, also felt that the things were going badly. Of the Shiites, who are 60 percent of the population and control the government, fewer than four in 10 found things were going badly.
Despite improvements, overall security remained the country’s main problem in the minds of most Iraqis.
At the same time, most reported that their own lives were going well. In August, fewer than four in 10 said that; in the new poll, 55 percent said it. More than six in 10 said local security was good, 19 percentage points higher than in August.
Looking ahead, however, fewer than half expect their country to be better in a year’s time. Still, that number, 46 percent, is twice the percentage of last August, when only 23 percent expected a better year ahead.
The poll was conducted Feb. 12-20 through interviews with a random sample of 2,228 Iraqi adults, including oversamples in Anbar province and in Baghdad and other major cities. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.