Iraq Opinion Poll

You're probably familiar with this poll which found, inter alia, that a majority of Iraqis support attacks on US troops:
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, according to a poll in that country.

Gateway Pundit objected that the Washington Post 'did publish pieces from a leaked classified document again today that paints a picture of a ungrateful and violent Iraqi population'. I responded in a comment (one of the last to appear under my old Blogger nom de guerre):
I would like to understand this poll and its results better. Certainly it's interesting that the only aspect the WP found headline-worthy was "Iraqis back attacks on US soldiers" and not the anti-OBL and anti-IRI sentiment.

But we really need to deal with this directly. Taken at face value, the results of the poll contradict the assertion that the Iraqis want us there. They contradict the assertion that we are winning hearts and minds, and they support the position that it would be better for both Iraqis and Americans if we would just leave immediately.

All of these things are perfectly reasonable inferences if we are to take the results of the poll at face value. That, obviously, is the big "if". The poll may have been conducted in a misleading way, or the results may have been reported in a misleading way, or the numbers may simply be wrong and not reflect Iraqi opinion at all. The previous commenter raised the kind of questions we need to ask.

Personally I am skeptical of these numbers, but I am not going to discount them simply because they don't fit my current beliefs. If the poll is wrong, we need to get that out there. If it's right, we need to re-examine our assumptions about Iraq.

I don't think it is helpful to respond to this by saying "Damn those Democrats! They're trying to hurt the war effort." Of course they are, and we all know that. But we still need to deal honestly with the results of this poll.

Gateway Pundit responded graciously and noted: 'The State Dept. today explained how hard it is to take polls in a place like Iraq where the people have been traumatized for so long. That was omitted from the WaPo report.'

Also, this is definitely a "good news, bad news" poll and overall the news is mostly good. Here is Harry's Place:
The report suggests that this hostility to US troops is related to the belief, held by 77% of Iraqis, that the US is planning permanent military bases, and says that the high approval rating for attacks on US forces might be "not because they are so eager for the US-led forces to get out immediately, but because they want to put pressure on the US to get out eventually" (my italics). Significantly, of the 61% who support attacks on US-forces, more than half say that their support would diminish if the US announced a commitment to withdraw its forces.

There's lots more good news, none of which made the WaPo headline:
In the previous PIPA poll, taken in January this year, 99% of Iraqis said they disapproved of attacks on civilians, with 95% disapproving strongly. Since then opinion has swung away from those supporting attacks on civilians. The figure is now 100%.

Other findings include:

Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are rejected by overwhelming majorities of Shias and Kurds and large majorities of Sunnis: 94% expressed an "unfavourable" view of Al Qaeda, with 82% expressing a "very unfavourable" view. The "unfavourable" figure included 77% of Sunnis. 93% expressed an unfavourable view of Osama bin Laden, with 77% very unfavourable. The unfavourable figure included 71% of Sunnis.
Some support remains for a US presence in a non-military capacity, with 63% approving of the US continuing to train Iraqi security forces, and 68% supporting the US in "helping Iraqis organize their communities to address local needs such as building schools and health clinics". Again, this is linked to the withdrawal of US forces. Of those expressing disapproval of a non-military US role, more than half said they'd be more likely to support such a role if a timetable for withdrawal was agreed.
Confidence in the Iraqi security forces is rising: 70% expressed confidence in the police, 64% in the army and 62% the Interior Ministry. 56% said they believed that in 6 months Iraqi security forces would be strong enough to cope with security challenges on their own, up from 39% in January. 63% believe the government is doing a very or somewhat good job.
Militias are seen as the problem rather than the solution: 77% support "a strong government that would get rid of militias", while only 21% preferred to continue to have militias. Support for militias was highest among Shias, but even then only 33% preferred militias to a strong central government. 68% of Iraqis said that they'd be able to rely on the government to ensure security if the militias were to disband.
The report states that "majorities of all groups do not favor a movement towards a looser confederation and believe that five years from now Iraq will still be a single state" (72%). Only 37% believe that the central government has too much power, and 65% see it as "the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people".

And last but not least:

61% continue to believe that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships entailed. This includes 75% of Shias and 81% of Kurds. The 61% figure is down from 77% in January 2006, but is consistent with previous polls from 2004. The report suggests that the high January figure "may have been influenced by optimism over the election in December 2005".

Overall, then, I think the results of the poll are very positive. This report shows us a picture of Iraqis who want to govern themselves: not to be ruled by Ba'athists, not by islamists, not even by Americans, but by themselves - the people of Iraq. And that's a healthy sign.

UPDATE. Iraq the Model has a few words about those poll numbers:
I can say that having 40% of Iraqis who disapprove of attacks on US troops is actually a surprising figure (in a good way) and it's not that bad at all. I mean the numbers indicate that war has more support in Iraq than it has in the UK itself or in countries in the Middle East where America is not waging a war! But again, if we want to comment on these numbers we need to keep a few points in our minds…

The magnitude of pressure and misinformation the people here are subject to from the media is a factor that cannot be ignored. Since April 2003 and till now virtually all the media kept describing the US presence as a force of occupation even when the legal status of the forces ceased to be so long time ago. For over three years, the media kept focusing on the mistakes and shortcomings of the US military and US administration in what I can only describe as force-feeding hatred to the Iraqi people.

It's not only the media, there are also our politicians. A good deal of the political class here is guilty of treason; some betrayed the US after posing as allies and friends while some betrayed the people by dragging them to an absolutely unnecessary confrontation with the US military. Both types have been trying to convince the people that America is responsible for instability and chaos in Iraq.

The behavior of Iraq's neighbors, Arab league, UN and the anti-war crowds in America and Europe has had a no better influence than the media or our irrational politicians and clerics.

What do you expect the attitude of the common Iraqi to be when he watches, hears or reads about the fairly wide anti-war movement in the west? When there are Americans who say America is wrong or say the war isn't for a just cause and when Americans say the US presence in Iraq is bad, and when that is the only side of the image the media focuses on, it becomes an invitation for Iraqis to resist this presence and there's no doubt many will answer the invitation whether with words or violent action since they will get the impression that they're legitimately resisting something bad.

We have little in our culture about compromise or working-out-our-differences-peacefully. Radical solutions often seem more tempting to the ordinary, less educated people. When everyone, and I mean everyone, keeps telling them America is their enemy, the common reaction would certainly involve violent means of expression…yes, that's our common way in showing our disagreement with others in this part of the world. It sucks, it's backward and it's savage but it's the fact and it will not change overnight, such changes happen slowly.

We should not expect pleasing answers from confused people, living in extremely difficult conditions, subjected to extreme emotional, physical and psychological stress and being misguided and misinformed by biased media and corrupt leaders.

Read the whole post here. Also check out Mohammed's post on the four sins contributing to the gloomy mood among Iraqis today ... and keep an eye on ITM for Mohammed's follow-up on what Americans need to know.