Over the last two years, Iraqi political values have become more secular and nationalistic, even though attitudes toward Americans have deteriorated, according to surveys of nationally representative samples of the population conducted in November 2004 and April 2006.
The Iraqi surveys, part of the ongoing World Values Surveys, are a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Eastern Michigan University.
The percentage of Iraqis who said they would not want to have Americans as neighbors rose from 87 percent in 2004 to 90 percent in 2006. When asked what they thought were the three main reasons why the United States invaded Iraq, 76 percent gave "to control Iraqi oil" as their first choice.
They do not like us. So why should our soldiers die for them?
Support for separation of religion and government has risen. But in elections Iraqis overwhelmingly vote for religious parties.
But at the same time, significantly more Iraqis support democratic values, including the separation of religion and politics.
In 2004, 27 percent of the 2,325 Iraqi adults surveyed strongly agreed that Iraq would be a better place if religion and politics were separated. In 2006, 41 percent of 2,701 adults surveyed strongly agreed.
The increase in those who see themselves as Muslims rather than Sunnis or Shias still leaves only a small percentage who see themselves that way.
In one indication of a possible lessening of sectarian conflict, the proportion of Iraqis who identified themselves as Muslim Arabs rather than as Shi'a or Sunni Arabs increased from 6 percent in 2004 to 14 percent in 2006.
The percentage of those surveyed who agreed with the statement "I am an Iraqi above all" rose from 23 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2006 in the country as a whole, from 23 percent to 33 percent in urban areas, and from 30 percent to 62 percent among Baghdad residents.
Maybe the Kurds and Sunnis will form an alliance against the majority Shiites and the Shia death squads will increase the perception among Sunni Arabs that they need to make common cause with the Kurds for mutual protection and better leverage.
Despite increased political violence between the Shi'as and the Sunnis, the researchers found no significant change in the overall level of inter-ethnic trust among Iraqis. While trust between the Shi'as and the Sunnis declined, trust between the Sunnis and the Kurds increased between 2004 and 2006.
Along with an increase in xenophobia, the survey found a growing sense of powerlessness, pessimism about the future and insecurity. Among Iraqis as a whole, 59 percent of those surveyed in 2006 strongly agreed with the following statement: "In Iraq these days life is unpredictable and dangerous." That compares to 46 percent who strongly agreed in 2004.
"This change varied among ethnic groups, with the biggest change among Kurds," Moaddel said. "Only 17 percent strongly agreed that life was unpredictable and dangerous in 2004, but 54 percent strongly agreed in 2006."
This change was from 41 percent to 48 percent among Shi'as, 77 percent to 84 percent among Sunnis and 67 percent to 79 percent among Muslims.
My guess is that if the United States pulled out then the Shia and Sunni Arabs would shift more toward seeing themselves primarily as Shias and Sunnis.
Update: We should ask the Iraqi government to hold a referendum on whether our troops should stay. Then we could leave in responses to the popular will of the democracy lovers of Iraq.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 June 20 10:45 PM MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls|