2006 June 20 Tuesday
Iraqis Becoming More Anti-American And Nationalistic

Nothing like a common object of hatred to bring people together.

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


Comments
John S Bolton said at June 21, 2006 3:06 AM:

The administration has forced Iraqis to be much more open to foreigners, many with quite destructive intent.
The international zone in Morocco was at one time glamorized as a cosmopolitan place, but why did it last only a few years?
The rise of 'xenophobia' in the Iraqi situation, which has some parallels to a similar forced openness to intriguing foreigners here, is in many ways a rational response.
After all, on the theory of passaging, as we increase the efficiency of migration of those who do us harm, they will become more harmful. iraqis are living through this now, as the vectoristic Bush administration forces them into ever more vulnerable positions of openness, to whatever is worst.

Ignacio said at June 21, 2006 10:18 AM:

This is probably naive of me to say, but somebody could interest the Iraqui government into a referendum asking: "Should the foreigner soldiers go back to their countries immediately?". That way everyone gets what they want while saving face in the process.

Randall Parker said at June 21, 2006 4:06 PM:

Ignacio,

I made the same suggestion a year or two ago.

A referendum for foreign troop withdrawal would win. See my post of October 2005 Iraq In Civil War As Poll Shows 82% Of Iraqis Want Coalition Troops Out.

So we could pull out at the request of a democracy and if they then proceeded to have a civil war we could say, hey, this is what they wanted.

Stephen said at June 21, 2006 8:58 PM:

The Iraqi government ministers know that if the US withdraws then they'll have to flee the country or be strung up. Therefore, there'll never be any such referendum.

In fact, John's theories would fit well with the situation in Iraq - its rational that the Iraqi government creates just enough violence that the US can claim a bit of success but not enough to allow it to draw down troop levels. This will guarantee that the US protects them while they skim a few more million off the US coffers.

momochan said at June 23, 2006 1:23 PM:

This poll spans 2004 to 2006, but I would be most interested to see whether any similar poll was conducted, say, in January of 2003 -- or earlier. Also, if I could be the one to make the poll questions, I'd ask Iraqis if their attitude towards the Saddam Hussein regime has shifted in hindsight -- do they feel that they were better off under the relative stability of oppression, or under the relative chaos of "democracy"?

Mthson said at June 26, 2006 8:29 PM:

If coalition troops withdraw at Iraq's request and the Iraqi government collapses etc., the U.S. will still be considered to have lost the war. At that point, not only did the U.S. start a war that was much-hated by most of the world, it lost. That sounds even worse than the legacy of the U.S.' loss in Vietnam, which wasn't so widely considered to be fundamentally unjust etc.


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