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Iraqis' Optimism Low, Poll Shows

Most say the economy has worsened, and only 30% think Iraq is headed in the right direction.

April 29, 2006|Bruce Wallace | Times Staff Writer

BAGHDAD — A majority of Iraqis say their country is in dismal economic shape and getting worse, according to a new poll conducted by a conservative American think tank, with three of four respondents also describing security in the country as "poor."

The numbers reveal a population with little optimism about its economic future. Iraqis believe jobs are harder to find, electrical service is poorer and corruption has worsened dramatically since last year, the poll shows.

And 62% of respondents said they believed Iraq is more politically divided today.

The results were culled from 2,804 face-to-face interviews across the country by the Washington-based International Republican Institute, or IRI. The interviews were conducted by Iraqi pollsters and included responses from violence-ridden western Al Anbar province for the first time since IRI began regular surveys in May 2004.

The latest poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, was conducted from March 23 to March 31, a time of surging sectarian violence in the wake of the Feb. 22 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samara. It also precedes a political breakthrough last week after a long deadlock that had prevented Iraq's parties from forming a government.

The political stalemate sapped much of the optimism that followed the election in December of Iraq's first full-term parliament since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The poll shows a strong desire for a national unity government, with a majority of respondents demanding broad representation capable of dealing with the violent breakdown of relations between Iraq's sectarian and ethnic communities.

More than half say they want the government in Baghdad to have "all political power and authority."

"Given the events that have transpired over the last few months, I don't think it's any surprise that there was a frustration," said Lisa Gates of the IRI. "You see the Iraqis wanting a unity government. They want a better life. They want freedom."

But the poll suggests that any new Iraqi government faces a hard road in turning the souring mood around. Fifty-two percent think the country is moving in the wrong direction, the most since the IRI's polls have been conducted, with just 30% saying it is going in the right direction -- the lowest figure since the polling began.

Sixty-one percent believe life would be better or much better in five years, down from the 85% who thought so in April 2005.

The results also show a nation struggling with economic hardship. Asked whether they would be willing to "accept a small increase in the price of fuel in exchange for a large reduction in Iraq's international debt, an increase of several hundred thousand new jobs for Iraqis and significantly improved government services for the poorest Iraqis," 61% of those polled said no. When asked why, more than half said it was because they were unemployed.

Almost the same percentage believe security is deteriorating, though Iraqis said they overwhelmingly trust the Iraqi army and police, though not local militias, to protect them.

Only 1% said they trusted American and coalition forces for their personal protection.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

What Iraqis think

A poll of 2,804 Iraqis shows that compared with last year, fewer are optimistic about the country's future.

Q: Thinking about the future, do you feel that things will be better, the same or worse in five years?

Much better

March 23-31, 2006: 26%

April 11-20, 2005: 57%

Better

March 23-31, 2006: 35%

April 11-20, 2005: 28%

Same

March 23-31, 2006: 7%

April 11-20, 2005: 3%

Worse

March 23-31, 2006: 5%

April 11-20, 2005: 1%

Much worse

March 23-31, 2006: 7%

April 11-20, 2005: 1%

*

Washington-based International Republican Institute began regular opinion surveys in May 2004; the latest poll was conducted from March 23 to March 31 this year. Margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Source: International Republican Institute

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