- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

Americans have been polled plenty about the war in Iraq. Now, the first survey of Iraqis has emerged from Baghdad, revealing a population that is anxious and perplexed, but also sure that the war ultimately will improve their lives.

Pollsters commissioned by Britain’s Spectator magazine and Channel 4 television network surveyed 798 Baghdad residents face to face July 8-10, their work sometimes interrupted by gunfire, explosions, sandstorms and gun-wielding assailants.

“The first systemic opinion poll of Iraq,” the Spectator stated, “finds a population full of anxiety — but also convinced that war has made their future brighter.”

The magazine said the pollsters were hard-pressed “to disengage from a stream of additional comments.”

“Far from being nervous about being interviewed, they [Iraqis] wanted to say more and more. This place seemed ripe for some kind of democracy.”

The hard-won results, released Thursday and titled “What Baghdad Really Thinks,” found that 50 percent of the respondents called the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein “right”; 27 percent said it was “wrong”; 23 percent had no opinion.

Five percent of respondents wanted Saddam to return to power. Nine percent preferred life under Saddam’s rule, while 29 percent “prefer Americans.” Forty-seven percent had “no preference” and 15 percent did not answer.

Iraqis have mixed opinions about when they should regain full control of their country, the poll found.

Forty percent want control immediately, 11 percent within three months, 11 percent within six months and 11 percent within a year. Nearly 10 percent thought regaining control after more than one year was reasonable, and 7 percent thought “Iraqis should not be granted political power” at all. Ten percent had no opinion.

With reference to a style of government, 36 percent want a U.S.-style democracy, and 26 percent prefer Islamic rule “tempered with modern ideals of justice and punishment.” Five percent want a presidential ruler, but “not Saddam.” Six percent want religious leaders in charge, and 6 percent want a single-party state. The rest were not sure or declined to state their preference.

Thirteen percent want U.S. and British forces to leave Iraq “straightaway.” A quarter want them there for a year; 20 percent thought they should leave in less than a year, and 31 percent hoped the troops would stay for “a few years.”

A third said their lives were better after the war, while 43 percent said it would be better in a year, and 52 percent said it would be improved in five years.

Just over one quarter said they felt friendly towards U.S. and British forces; 50 percent said they felt neither friendly nor hostile toward the troops. Nine percent said they felt “very” hostile, and 9 percent were “fairly” hostile.

Life has gotten more threatening, the respondents said. Fifty-four percent said it was “much more” dangerous, 21 percent said “a little more,” 14 percent said a “little” or “much” safer, and 10 percent said there was no change.

The Iraqis also theorized about American and British motivations for the war: 47 percent felt it was “to secure oil supplies,” 41 percent said it was to help Israel, and 23 percent felt it was to liberate Iraq from dictatorship.

Seven percent said the war was fought “to protect Kuwait”; 6 percent thought the war was staged to find weapons of mass destruction, and 18 percent either did not know or would not answer.

Most of the Iraqis’ personal travails stem from lack of services, the poll found. Eighty percent cited lack of power, 67 percent noted street violence, 49 percent spoke of lack of drinking water, 33 percent cited lack of medical care, 24 percent said there were food shortages, 21 percent talked of business closings and 17 percent noted school closings.

The poll, which was conducted by the firm YouGov, can be viewed at the Spectator Web site (www.spectator.co.uk).

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