- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2004

The popular perception of Iraq is that it is filled with angry, pessimistic people. It’s no surprise, considering the reports of scandal and crisis that continue to pour from the popular press. However, the reality is rather different.

A just-released poll shows that despite the current turmoil, Iraqis are optimistic that their country is on the right track toward independence and freedom. Conducted earlier this month via nearly 2,000 household interviews in six different cities and commissioned by U.S. officials in Iraq, the survey showed that despite their ethnic and religious differences, Iraqis are generally supportive of the government and hopeful about the future.

About half of Iraqis said that the country is “heading in the right direction,” and about 40 percent said it was heading in the “wrong direction.” Almost 65 percent believe things will be better in a year — a number consistent with that of a similar poll taken by Oxford Research International in February.

Unsurprisingly, Iraqis were most concerned about security and crime, economic issues, and infrastructure in that order. More than 70 percent said that the transfer of sovereignty would improve the situation; fewer than 10 percent said things would become worse.

Almost 90 percent of those surveyed said they would vote if an election were held today, and a majority favored voting for individual candidates, instead of the combination of parties and candidates backed by the United Nations. Iraqis have a high recognition of, and positive impression of, their leadership — 74 percent recognized Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and 51 percent had a positive perception of him, while 73 percent recognized President Ghazi al-Yawer and 72 percent had a positive perception of him.

Iraqis have forward-looking political ideals: Few said they would have difficulty voting for a woman candidate; 85 percent said they believed women should have the right to vote without interference from family members; and 75 percent said that women should have the same political, economic, civil and legal rights as men. When asked what they thought the most important idea that a political party should embody, most declared things like social justice and improving standards of living, including education and health care. Just over 20 percent said a political movement should be based on “implementation of Islamic law.”

Obviously, Iraqis are optimistic about their future. Americans should be, too.

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