The poll was conducted face-to-face with 3,000 Iraqis from September 25 to October 5, 2008. Roughly one-third of the respondents came from Baghdad, with the rest spread across the country. 61.8% were men, 38.2% were women. 93.9% had some kind of education from primary to a college degree. 77.8% were Arab, 15.3% were Kurds, 2.0% were Turkomen, and 0.9% were Assyrian.
First there was a general question of what was the most important issue facing the country. Basic goods, services, and jobs combined received the most responses at 36.1%. Security with 30.6% was the single most important issue. After those, the dispute over Kirkuk 6.0%, poverty and standard of living 5.5% rounded out the top five. At number six was the presence of U.S. and Coalition forces at 4.5%, followed by disarming militias 4.3%, corruption 3.2%, federalism 2.8%, and other economic topics 1.8%. On security itself, 68.4% of those surveyed said they felt very safe in their own district. That compared to almost 30% who said they did not feel that way. The number of non-security issues that Iraqis responded to highlights the post-Surge status quo in Iraq. Violence and attacks are still major problems, but increasingly Iraqis want a functioning government and employment.
When asked what Iraqis want from their government 55.3% said security was still the top priority. After that services 24.9% and jobs 14.8% were next. Most were very unhappy with the state of Iraq’s services and infrastructure. On food rations 27.8% said they were very good to good, compared to 45.8% who said they were not good to very bad. 25.5% said they were acceptable. The availability of fuel was seen as equally lacking with 21.5% saying the situation was positive, while 49.5% saying it was not good to very bad. On access to water, 30.3% said it was very good to good, compared to 46.4% saying it was bad, while 22.6% saying it was acceptable. The greatest discontent seemed to be with electricity with only 9.8% saying it was good. 25.3% said it was not good, and a whopping 53.4% said it was very bad. Only 10.3% felt it was acceptable. The Iraqi government has consistently struggled to provide basic services and goods to its public. This is due to the lack of trained staff, a brain drain of middle class professionals, corruption, and a paper based bureaucracy that takes months to get anything done.
Iraq’s parliament recently passed a new provincial election law, so there was a question about which party people supported. The largest response was no one with 17.9%, showing a level of cynicism amongst Iraqis. After that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party received 14.7%, followed by 13.3% for former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s National Accord Front, 8.5% said don’t know, and then the two Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party at 7.2% and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan with 6.4%. The Sadrists only got 4.1%, but that was better than their main rival and the largest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) at 2.4%. Of the Sunni parties, Vice president Tariq Hashimi’s Islamic Party of Iraq did the best at 3.4%. They were followed by the Sunni independents Al-Eummah Iraqi Party at 2.5%, another independent group, the Iraqi National Dialogue Front at 2.4%, which tied it with the Anbar Awakening Council. The most surprising result of this question was the strong showing by former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s National Accord Front. Allawi’s party, which is nationalist in character, has largely gone unmentioned in the inter-Shiite and inter-Sunni power struggles now occurring in the country. If these polling numbers hold up, Allawi’s party could have a surprising showing in the 2009 election. Also of note was the poor showing by the SIIC, which controls most of the southern provinces plus Baghdad. Maliki’s new standing has boosted his party as well, and they could ride that to election victories. Even the weakened Sadrists could do better than the SIIC based upon this poll.
When asked which politician could do the best job for Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had the highest positives with 17.2%, followed by former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi at 16.7%, none at 13.2%, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari at 7.9% who broke away from the Dawa party and formed his own National Reform Movement, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani at 6.3%, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at 4.3%. Sadr ranked eighth at 3.8%, while SIIC Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi got 3.6%, and SIIC head Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem 1.9%. Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi of the Islamic Iraqi Party was the most popular Sunni politician at 3.6%. Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the independent Sunni party the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, got a 2.9%, while Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar Awakening got 2.2%. These results closely followed the one about the parties, with Ayad Allawi again doing surprisingly well, coming in second only to the Prime Minister. The established Sunni politicians also seem to be doing better than Sheikh Abu Risha of the Anbar Awakening Council, but that probably won’t stop the tribes from sweeping the Iraqi Islamic Party out of power in Anbar. In the rest of Iraq, the Iraqi Accordance Front coalition and independents like the Iraqi National Dialogue Front will probably get the majority of Sunni support, which could change the provincial councils in Salahaddin and Ninewa, which are currently controlled by the Kurdish parties.
The Prime Minister’s new standing in the country after his security operations led the poll to ask if Maliki stayed in office would it improve the country. 46.2% said yes, 42.5% said no, showing a divided opinion about Iraq’s leader.
The survey also included questions about the timing, registration, and information about the provincial elections. 66.7% said the elections should have a specific date, 15.2% said they should be delayed for a year, while 5.5% said they should be at the same time as parliamentary election. 69.7% said they had not updated their election information, which hopefully means they did not have to. Iraq’s voter registration is based upon the food rations system, so only those that move have to re-register. 26.6% said they had.
The U.S. and Iraqi governments are currently in a heated debate over a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two that would legalize a continued U.S. military presence in the country after December 31, 2008, and would set their diplomatic relations into the future. Despite the importance of the issue, 49.8% said they had not heard of the SOFA, while 46.2% said they had. Overall, 61.3% said they disagreed with the agreement, compared to 28.5% who supported it. The survey then broke down the opinions of those who had heard of the SOFA about how it would affect Iraq’s economy, security, and politics. 18.9% said it would improve Iraq’s economy and standing in the region. 17.7% however said it would weaken the economy and allow the U.S. to control the country’s resources. 19.2% said it would help with security and establishing a strong government, while 18.2% said it would weaken Baghdad and lead to instability. 18.7% felt it would have a bad effect on the future of the country and its relations with the region, while 18.5% said it would help stabilize Iraq. The overwhelming opposition to the SOFA, and the mixed views about its effects, has put the agreement in jeopardy as current press reports show.
In terms of the Middle East, those polled felt like Iraq should play a greater role in the region and stay clear of U.S. disputes. When asked what should Iraq do if war broke out between the U.S. and Iran for example, almost two thirds, 71.6% said their country should stay neutral. Only 14.7% said Iraq should help the U.S., while 6.1% said they should help Iran. When asked who Iraq should have a strategic relationship with, the U.S. and Iran engendered almost the same responses. 48.1% were strongly to somewhat opposed to ties with the U.S., while 49.2% said the same about Iran. Britain had the third highest negatives with 44.1% against. On the positive side, 77% said Iraq should have ties with Syria, 73.2% said the same for Jordan, and 66.9% for Saudi Arabia.
Today, the issue of federalism and regional governments is only between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. The SIIC use to support an autonomous southern Shiite region, but has largely dropped that from their agenda. That was largely because their idea was unpopular, which is shown in the survey. 69.9% said Iraq should have a strong government in Baghdad, as opposed to 17.7% who said authority should reside in the provinces. 70.0% also said they were opposed to establishing any new regional governments outside of Kurdistan, while only 23.9% said there should be.
The last question on the survey was about how the respondents identified themselves. 69.8% said they preferred Iraqi citizen. 10.6% said their nationality such as Arab, Kurds, Assyrian, Turkomen, etc. 7.6% said their tribe, and 5.2% said their religion, while 4.9% said their town, locality or region. From 2006-2007 as violence in Iraq was at its peak and Shiites and Sunnis were at war, American commentators said that Iraq had always been divided by sect. When the Anbar Awakening began turning the tide on Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Sons of Iraq spread across central Iraq, analysts then began saying that Iraqi society was based upon tribes. This survey however shows that over two-thirds still think of themselves as Iraqis first, with tribes and sect ranking below 10%.
Here are all of the results of the Iraq Center for Research & Strategic Studies poll.
- Men 61.8%
- Women 38.2%
- Preparatory 23.2%
- Secondary 22.9%
- Primary 16.6%
- Bachelor 15.6%
- Diploma 13.9%
- None 5.1%
- High education 1.7%
- Don’t know 0.6%
- No answer 0.4%
Sample by Provinces:
- Baghdad 32.2%
- Ninewa 8.3%
- Basra 8.2%
- Sulamaniyah 6.5%
- Irbil 5.7%
- Dhi Qar 4.6%
- Babil 3.7%
- Najaf 3.6%
- Anbar 3.5%
- Tamim 3.5%
- Diyala 3.2%
- Maysan 2.8%
- Wasit 2.8%
- Salahaddin 2.7%
- Karbala 2.6%
- Qadisiyah 2.6%
- Dohuk 2.0%
- Muthanna 1.3%
What is the most important topics facing Iraq at present?
- Security 30.6%
- Unemployment 18.2%
- Basic goods and services 17.9%
- Kirkuk 6.0%
- Poverty and standard of living 5.5%
- Presence of Coalition forces 4.5%
- Disarming militias 4.3%
- Corruption 3.2%
- Federalism 2.8%
- Other economic topics 1.8%
- Relations between sects, ethnicities and religious groups 1.0%
- Other political topics 1.0%
- Forced migration 0.8%
- Accommodation 0.7%
- Education 0.6%
- Crime 0.4%
- Changing constitution 0.3%
- Don’t know 0.2%
- No reply 0.1%
Feelings about security in your district?
- Very safe 68.4%
- Not very safe 22.0%
- Not safe at all 7.5%
- Don’t know 1.8%
- No Answer 0.3%
Do you agree on setting a curfew in insecure areas?
- Yes 56.4%
- No 40.5%
- Don’t know 2.5%
- No answer 0.6%
If agreed, what is the result?
- Weakening of armed groups? Yes 48.3%, No 5.9%, Don’t know 1.4%, No answer 0.7%
- Increase in suffering for public Yes 32.3%, No 22.0%, Don’t know 1.3%, No answer 0.7%
- Imposing law and order Yes 41.1$, No 12.4%, Don’t know 1.9%, No answer 0.8%
- Collective punishment Yes 17.5%, No 36.3%, Don’t know 1.7%, No answer 0.8%
- Incapacitate security forces Yes 15.6%, NO 37.4%, Don’t know 2.4%, No answer 0.8%
What is the best media source for information about the law and order operations?
- TV 82.4%
- Don’t know 7.1%
- No answer 5.9%
- Poster 3.5%
- Radio 0.6%
- Newspaper 0.5%
What do you think about the reporting on the law and order operations?
- Somewhat accurate 36.9%
- Very accurate 29.1%
- Somewhat inaccurate 11.4%
- Not accurate at all 9.1%
- Don’t know 8.5%
- No answer 5.0%
What do Iraqis want from their government?
- Security 55.3%
- Services 24.9%
- Jobs 14.8%
- Democracy 3.4%
- Don’t Know 1.3%
- No Answer 0.3%
Level of agreement with the following
- Quantity of food ration 4.6% very good, 23.2% good, 25.5% acceptable, 21.9% not good, 23.9% very bad
- Oil, gas, oil availability 6.8% very good, 21.7% good, 26.2% acceptable, 22.8% not good, 22.5% very bad
- Fuel availability 3.6% very good, 17.9% good, 27.6% acceptable, 24.8% not good, 24.7% very bad
- Roads and bridges 6.0% very good, 21.7% good, 25.9% acceptable, 20.4% not good, 24.3% very bad
- First aid 9.4% very good, 27.2% good, 28.1% acceptable, 16.8% not good, 17.9% very bad
- Waterways 6.7% very good, 18.6% good, 22.9% acceptable, 19.8% not good, 30.5% very bad
- Garbage pick up 7.4% very good, 17.8% good, 27.1% acceptable, 19.1% not good, 27.3% very bad
- Electricity 9.8% good, 10.3% acceptable, 25.3% not good, 53.4% very bad
- Water 5.2% very good, 25.1% good, 22.6% acceptable, 21.8% not good, 24.6% very bad
When do you want provincial elections?
- Specific time 66.7%
- Delay it for a year 15.2%
- Same time as parliamentary elections 5.5%
- Don’t know 9.1%
- No Answer 3.5%
Did you update your election information?
- 69.7% no
- 26.6% yes
- Don’t know 2.3%
- No answer 1.4%
If you did update your election information, was it correct?
- 17.8% correct
- 8.3% somewhat correct
- 0.1% incorrect
- 0.2% don’t know
- 0.2% no answer
Which one of the following person could make the most positive change in the country?
- Nouri al-Maliki [Prime Minister – Dawa Part] 17.2%
- Ayad Allawi [Former Interim Prime Minister – Iraqi National List] 16.7%
- None 13.2%
- Ibrahim al-Jaafari [Former Prime Minister – National Reform Movement] 7.9%
- Masooud Barzani [President Kurdish Regional Government – Kurdistan Democratic Party] 6.3%
- Jalal Talabani [President of Iraq – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] 4.3%
- Don’t know 4.2%
- Moqtada al-Sadr 3.8%
- Adil Abdul Mahdi [Vice President of Iraq – Supreme Islamic Iraq Council] 3.6%
- Tariq al-Hashimi [Vice President of Iraq – Islamic Party of Iraq] 3.6%
- No Answer 3.0%
- Saleh al-Mutlaq [Head Iraqi National Dialogue Front] 2.9%
- Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha [Head Anbar Awakening Council] 2.2%
- Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem [Head Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council] 1.9%
- Barhem Salih [Deputy Prime Minister – Patriotic Union of Kurdistan] 1.9%
- Neachirevan Barzani [Prime Minister Kurdish Regional Government – Kurdistan Democratic Party] 0.9%
- Kusart Ali 0.7%
- Mithal al-Alusi [Ummah Iraqi Party – Sunni independent] 0.7%
- Younadim Kanah [Assyrian Democratic Movement] 0.5%
- Ahmed al-Chalabi [Iraqi National Congress] 0.5%
- Ayad Jamal al-Deen [Iraqi National List] 0.5%
- Adnan al-Dulaimi [General Council for the People of Iraq, part of Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.4%
- Khalaf al-Ulayyan [Iraqi National Dialogue Council, part of Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.4%
- Harith al-Dhari [Head Association of Muslim Scholars] 0.4%
- Mahmoud al Mashhadani [Speaker Iraqi Parliament – Iraqi Accordance Front] 0.3%
If Prime Minister Maliki stayed in office would it improve all of Iraq?
- 46.2% yes
- 42.5% no
- 9.6% don’t know
- 1.7% no answer
Who will you vote for in next election?
- None 17.9%
- Islamic Dawa Party [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] 14.7%
- National Accord Front [Former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi] 13.3%
- Don’t Know 8.5%
- No Answer 7.4%
- Kurdistan Democratic Party [Kurdish Regional Government President Masooud Barzani] 7.2%
- Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [President of Iraq Jalal Talabani] 6.4%
- National Reformist Movement [Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari] 4.3%
- Sadr Movement [Moqtada al-Sadr] 4.1%
- Islamic Party of Iraq [Vice President Tariq Hashimi] 3.4%
- Al-Eummah Iraqi Party [Member of Parliament Mithal al-Alusi] 2.5%
- Anbar Awakening Council [Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha] 2.4%
- Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council [Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem] 2.4%
- Iraqi National Dialogue Front [Saleh al-Mutlaq] 2.4%
- Iraqi National Dialogue Council [Khalaf al-Ulayyan] 0.9%
- Islamic Dawa Party-Iraq 0.6%
- Iraqi National Congress 0.4%
What media source do you get most of your information from about the provincial elections?
- TV 83.9%
- Poster 9.8%
- Don’t know 3.5%
- No answer 1.8%
- Newspaper 0.5%
- Radio 0.5%
What is your favorite media source for information about the provincial elections?
- TV 89.5%
- Poster 5.4%
- Don’t know 2.4%
- No answer 1.6%
- Newspaper 0.6%
- Radio 0.6%
What is your favorite TV channel for news?
- Al Arabia 21.7%
- Al Iraqia 18.9%
- Alhurra Iraq 17.6%
- Al Jazeera 13.6%
- Sharqia 10.6%
- No answer 6.0%
- BBC Arabic 3.8%
- Don’t know 3.2%
- Al Huryah 1.7%
- Kurdistan 1.6%
- Sumaria 1.2%
What form of federalism should Iraq have?
- Strong government in Baghdad 69.9%
- More authority in provinces 17.7%
- Don’t know 8.0%
- No answer 4.4%
Do you support establishing another regional government in addition to Kurdistan?
- No 70.0%
- Yes 23.9%
- Don’t know 4.0%
- No answer 2.1%
Have you heard about the SOFA with the U.S.?
- 49.8% no
- 46.2% yes
- 2.9% don’t know
- 1.0% no answer
If you heard about the SOFA, what is your opinion of how it will affect Iraq?
- Economy will improve and Iraq will become an economic leader in Middle East 18.9%
- Weaken Iraq’s economy and U.S. will control its resources 17.7%
- Don’t know 5.5%
- No answer 4.0%
- Will help with security and stability and a strong government 19.2%
- Will lead to instability and weak government 18.2%
- Don’t know 4.9%
- No answer 3.8%
- Bad affect on the future of the country and its relations with region 18.7%
- Will help stabilize Iraq 18.5%
- Don’t know 5.1%
- No answer 3.8%
Do you agree/disagree with SOFA?
- Disagree 61.3%
- Agree 28.5%
- Don’t know 8.6%
- No answer 1.5%
If you agreed, what is the time to sign it?
- Now 18.0%
- 2008 U.S. presidential election 7.8%
- Don’t know 1.9%
- No answer 0.6%
What should Iraq do if war breaks out between the U.S. and Iran?
- Neutral 71.6%
- Help U.S. against Iran 14.7%
- Help Iran against U.S. 6.1%
- Don’t know 4.7%
- No answer 3.0%
Which countries do you support having strategic relationships with?
- U.S.: No answer 2.7%, Don’t know 3.9%, Strongly oppose 39.4%, Somewhat oppose 8.7%, Somewhat support 16.0%, Strongly support 29.3%
- Britain: No answer 2.7%, Don’t know 4.2%, Strongly oppose 35.0%, Somewhat oppose 9.1%, Somewhat support 17.9%, Strongly support 31.0%
- Turkey: No answer 2.1%, Don’t know 4.2%, Strongly oppose 20.6%, Somewhat oppose 11.6%, Somewhat support 23.8%, Strongly support 38.7%
- Kuwait: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 3.2%, Strongly oppose 21.7%, Somewhat oppose 14.5%, Somewhat support 26.8%, Strongly support 31.2%
- Iran: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 2.9%, Strongly oppose 38.7%, Somewhat oppose 10.5%, Somewhat support 20.4%, Strongly support 24.9%
- Syria: No answer 2.6%, Don’t know 2.4%, Strongly oppose 11.5%, Somewhat oppose 6.5%, Somewhat support 27.0%, Strongly support 50.0%
- Saudi Arabia: No answer 23%, Don’t know 25%, Strongly oppose 18.0%,Somewhat oppose 10.3%, Somewhat support 25.4%, Strongly support 41.5%
- Jordan: No answer 2.2%, Don’t know 2.6%, Strongly oppose 12.4%, Somewhat oppose 9.6%, Somewhat support 29.6%, Strongly support 43.6%
- Arab 77.8%
- Kurd 15.3%
- Turk 2.0%
- Assyrian 0.9%
- Muslim 66.3%
- Shiite 24.3%
- Sunni 6.3%
- Christian 2.5%
- Don’t know 0.3%
- No answer 0.1%
- Protestant 0.1%
- Catholic 0.1%
- Orthodox 0.1%
What is your most important way to identify yourself?
- Iraqi citizen 69.8%
- Nationality (Arab/Kurd/Assyrian/Turkmen, etc.) 10.6%
- My tribe 7.6%
- Shiite/Sunni/Christian 5.2%
- My town/locality/region 4.9%
- Job or occupation 1.1%
- Don’t know 0.6%
- No answer 0.2%
For more on Iraqi public opinion see:
Pentagon Public Opinion Poll of Iraqis
Chon, Gina and Naji, Zaineb, “Iraq Drive for Voters Lags,” Wall Street Journal, 9/18/08
Colvin, Marie, “Deal on American presence in Iraq close to collapse,” Sunday Times of London, 10/26/08
Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” September 2008
Gluck, Jason, “From Gridlock to Compromise: How Three Laws Could Begin to Transform Iraqi Politics,” United States Institute of Peace, March 2008
Iraq Centre For Research & Strategic Studies, “Public Opinion Survey in Iraq; The Security & Political Situation in Iraq,” October 2008
Sheridan, Mary Beth, “As Iraq’s Oil Flows Freely, Profits Are Stuck in Bureaucracy,” Washington Post, 10/17/08
Susman, Tina, “Iraq too dangerous for many professionals,” Los Angeles Times, 10/5/08
United States Government Accountability Office, “Iraqi Revenues, Expenditures, and Surplus,” August 2008