2003 September 10 Wednesday
AEI Releases Poll Of Iraqi Political Views

Karl Zinsmeister of the American Enterprise Institute reports on a poll conducted by Zogby International and American Enterprise magazine on the political views of people in Iraq.

Conducted in August, our survey was necessarily limited in scope, but it reflects a nationally representative sample of Iraqi views, as captured in four disparate cities: Basra (Iraq's second largest, home to 1.7 million people, in the far south), Mosul (third largest, far north), Kirkuk (Kurdish-influenced oil city, fourth largest) and Ramadi (a resistance hotbed in the Sunni triangle). The results show that the Iraqi public is more sensible, stable and moderate than commonly portrayed, and that Iraq is not so fanatical, or resentful of the U.S., after all.

  • Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32 percent say things will become much better.
  • The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.
  • Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37 percent of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28 percent. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.
  • Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33 percent want an Islamic government; a solid 60 percent say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66 percent to 27 percent. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

Click thru to read the rest of the report. The news is encouraging overall. However, there were parts of the poll that were more worrying to me than they were to Zinsmeister. For instance, while 57% of the Iraqi public have an unfavorable view of Osama Bin Laden that implies that a rather large minority of the population likes Bin Laden. Also, even if most rarely if ever attend mosque it is important to keep in mind the threat posed by small highly motivated minorities of religious extremists.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 10 04:22 PM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls


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