December 13, 2005


SPIEGEL Survey of Iraq: Dreaming of Normalcy amid Chaos: As Iraqi voters pick a new parliament this Thursday, most of the country's people are hoping their future leaders can clamp down on violence and increase security. But in spite of the current chaos a majority of Iraqis believe their lives will improve soon, according to a new SPIEGEL survey. (Der Spiegel, 12/13/05)

Conducted by Oxford University and the University of Baghdad, the survey suggests a solid commitment to democracy; 6 out of 10 Iraqis prefer a democratic system to some sort of rule by an Islamic leader.

But the desire for a "strong man" in Iraq hasn't disappeared. Half the respondents believe that only an authoritarian can ensure unity and security for now. But that's the problem: no single party or politician has the trust of all the people. Ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi leads this contest with a humble 15 percent, while current President Jalal Talabani has to content himself with a 10 percent popularity rating.

The same goes for political organizations in Iraq. Only in the Kurdish region and among voters with a religious orientation are there clear preferences. The sympathies of the rest of the survey respondents are divided between more than 30 groups.

This could pay off for current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari on Thursday. Although he's lost personal popularity, two-thirds of Iraqis are in favor of keeping his government in power. Popular opinion of the police and security forces has also clearly improved. Trust in the new Iraqi army has gone up since October 2003 (38 percent) to a current level of 67 percent. [...]

At any rate, Iraqi incomes have more than doubled in the past two years, to an average of $236 a month, and the range of consumer durables on offer has improved markedly. Almost every household now possesses a television set, and 86 percent of TV viewers also have a satellite dish.

Mobile telephones, luxury items owned by just five percent of the population two years ago, are now mass market goods possessed by 62 per cent of households. The number of people owning cars (55 percent) and washing machines (54 percent) has risen along similar lines.

Reason enough for Iraqis to display an almost inexplicable confidence. Across the country, almost 70 percent of the population believe that within a year, the situation in Iraq will be either "somewhat better" or "a lot better".

That optimism, though, is not shared equally throughout Iraq's different geographical regions. In the center of the country, the mood is gloomy: only 41 percent of residents believe there will be an improvement. By contrast, 85 percent of people in the capital are looking to the future with great enthusiasm, followed by those in the Shiite south and the Kurdish areas.

Howe does this happily expectant mood fit in with the bloody scenes of bombings and shootings, the reports of kidnappings, curfews and shortages?

The apparent contradiction arises from differing perceptions of reality. Western media concentrate their efforts on the theater of war in the heart of Iraq. Daily reports from the strongholds of resistance in Samara, Fallujah and Ramadi ignore the fact that huge tracts of the country remain untouched by the fighting.

Away from the confrontation, in villages, small towns and desert settlements, the research team was able to speak to members of the "silent majority". Here, the principle of hope wins out: despite all the scepticism about the general state of the country, 71 percent of the people questioned were either "very" or "quite" happy with their personal circumstances. A lack of somewhere to live, poor standards of living and unemployment trouble between six and 13 percent of the population, depending on the region they are in.

The everyday life of these towns and villages is dominated by a sense of the positive. Iraqis look at their new-found freedom of expression, the state of their schools, healthcare system and water supplies with satisfaction.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 13, 2005 10:51 AM

But in spite of the current chaos a majority of Iraqis believe their lives will improve soon...

Well, they won't make very good Liberals.

Posted by: John Resnick at December 13, 2005 12:57 PM

"Spiegel" is German for 'mirror", no? They could use one.

Posted by: ghostcat at December 13, 2005 3:00 PM

1st the beeb, now Der S.

We must be winning.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 13, 2005 4:05 PM

55% own cars. We have won.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 13, 2005 4:20 PM

Between 6-13%?

Europe's worse.


Posted by: Sandy P at December 13, 2005 6:13 PM

55% own cars?

Uh oh. You're gonna turn OJ against the war Lou.

Get those Iraqis some trains, stat.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at December 13, 2005 7:02 PM

I think the MSM's negativity can be summed up this way: Iraqi reporters have a better economic future ahead of theme than American ones.

And Maureen Dowd would do better to look for a rich, single Iraqi than to keep scouring Manhattan.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 13, 2005 10:02 PM

Jim, there is no way I would inflict that shrew on my worst enemy.

Posted by: Mikey at December 14, 2005 8:14 AM