With the war against the Islamic State over and violence at its lowest level since the 2003 invasion, most Iraqis are turning their attention to the Iraqi government and are not happy with what they see. A poll released in July 2019 by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted in the spring found that most Iraqis think their country is going in the wrong direction because of their concerns about Baghdad.
The NDI questioned 7,227 people in all of Iraq’s provinces from March to April 2019. There was a +/- 2.6% margin of error.
People’s major concern was the conduct of the government. When asked was Iraq going in the right or wrong direction 75% said wrong. That was up from 59% in another survey done by NDI in July 2017. The 24% that said Iraq was going in the right direction was boosted by Kurdish responders who thought that the Irbil-Baghdad dispute was doing better. When asked which institution did they trust none did well. Local district councils had the highest positive at 33%, while provincial councils and the national government were at 29%, and parliament was at 18%. Only 30% said that the government was effective, a 15% drop from an April 2018 questionnaire. As a further sign of problems 74% of responders said they didn’t know what the government’s priorities were. For the first time since 2003, security is not such a major issue in Iraq. That means people are focusing upon the government’s performance which has always been lacking. The survey shows widespread discontent. In fact, they don’t even seem to know what Baghdad is doing.
Do you think Iraq is going in the right/wrong direction?
For each institution do you trust them a lot, somewhat, little or not at all?
District Councils: 33% a lot/somewhat, 63% little/not at all
Provincial Councils: 29% a lot/somewhat, 64% little/not at all
Iraqi Government: 29% a lot/somewhat, 70% little/not at all
Parliament: 18% a lot/somewhat, 77% little/not at all
Is the government effective?
There were mixed results on corruption, services, and reconstruction. When asked what two issues are the most important for the government to deal with jobs at 43% and corruption at 38% topped the list. 83% said corruption was getting worse, and 83% said the same thing about jobs. Those surveyed also believed that senior government officials were the most corrupt in the country, while the security forces were the least. On the other hand, 53% responded that services were getting better up from 15% in October 2018. Even in Basra, which saw major protests over electricity and water last year, 74% said services were better, up from 36% in October 2018. Views on rebuilding varied by province. 63% said it was getting better in Baghdad where there is very little war damage except in the outskirts of the province. In western Iraq 39% said it was improving, while 73% in Ninewa and 62% in Kirkuk said things were getting worse. Finally, 53% of respondents felt like others were getting more than their fair share of services. Iraq has been one of the most corrupt countries in recent history so it’s not surprising it does badly in that category. This year, the authorities were able to improve electricity production, which might have contributed to the positive responses on services. At the same time, many believe that those services are not being equally distributed with a widespread belief that others are getting privileged treatment. Finally, those farthest away from reconstruction, like Baghdad think things are doing better than those that are actually dealing with the problem.
What 2 issues are the most important for the government to address?
10% Health care
4% High Prices
Are these issues getting better/worse?
Corruption 83% worse
Job Opportunities 83% worse
Cost of Living 73% worse
Services 53% better
Is reconstruction getting better/worse?
Baghdad 63% better
Western Iraq 39% better
Ninewa 73% worse
Kirkuk 62% worse
For each level/arm of government how concerned are you about corruption? Extremely, very, somewhat, little, not concerned
Senior government officials 82% extremely/very
Education 72% extremely/very
Health Care 68% extremely/very
Provincial Councils 68% Extremely/very
Governors 63% Extremely/very
Kurdistan Regional Government 50% Extremely/very
Police 43% Extremely/very
Army 38% Extremely/very
Counter Terror Service 35% Extremely/very
Do you feel your group gets its fair share of services/others get more services
19% Fair share
53% Others get more
The growing cynicism about the government’s performance looks like it will lead to another low turnout in the upcoming provincial elections. Outside of Kurdistan 49% said they would or might vote. That went down to 40% in Baghdad, with the west having the highest participation figure at 56%. When broken down by age and gender young people said they would probably vote from 52-50%, while only 43% of older men said that. For those that would vote, 48% said they would go for a different party from what they picked in 2018. The 2018 parliamentary election only saw 44.5% of voters casting ballots, the lowest number since 2005. This was the first survey that found 50% or more of people not likely to participate in an election. Again, this pointed to the growing dissatisfaction with how the ruling elite were running the country.
Would you vote in the provincial elections? Would, probably, 50-50, not vote
Non-Kurdistan 49% would/probably, 50% 50-50/not vote
Baghdad 40% would/probably, 60% 50-50/not vote
South 50% would/probably, 50% 50-50/note vote
West 56% would/probably, 44% 50-50/note vote
Younger women 50% would/probably, 50% 50-50/not vote
Younger men 62% would/probably, 48% 50-50/not vote
Older women 51% would/probably, 48% 50-50/not vote
Older men 43% would/probably, 57% 50-50/not vote
A majority of Iraqis felt that sectarianism was declining and national identity improving, but still felt the country was divided. 63% of people said that sectarianism was getting better, and 65% said they identified as Iraqis first with only 14% identifying with their sect and 31% in Kurdistan saying they were Kurdish first. On the flip side, 64% believed Iraq was divided. The survey went over a number of issues that might account for that and the political parties at 52% came in first, followed by foreign countries at 39%. The Sunni-Shiite divide, 28%, and Arab-Kurdish divide, 15%, didn’t appear to be major concerns. 72% also said security was getting better. Again, with the war over, people are looking more critically at the government and ruling elite and are not happy, and believe they are actually doing more harm than good.
Is sectarianism getting better/worse?
How would you identify yourself first?
31% Kurdish in Kurdistan
Is Iraq a unified/divided country?
Which 2 are the biggest concerns for dividing Iraq?
52% Political parties
39% Foreign countries
32% Politicians and society
8% Rich and poor
Relations between Baghdad-Irbil getting better/worse?
Non-Kurdistan 48% better
Kurdistan 25% better
Is security getting better/worse?
National Democratic Institute, “Iraq Post-Daesh, Improved Social Cohesion, but Iraqis Remain Dissatisfied with Government,” July 2019