Poll finds optimism in Baghdad

Posted in Iraq | 25-Sep-03 | Author: Patrick Tyler| Source: International Herald Tribune

Two-thirds expect better life in 5 years

BAGHDAD - After five months of foreign military occupation and the removal of Saddam Hussein, nearly two-thirds of Baghdad residents say the removal of the Iraqi dictator has been worth the hardships they have been forced to endure, a new Gallup poll shows.

Despite the systemic collapse of government and civic institutions, a crime wave of looting and violence and shortages of water and electricity, 67 percent of 1,178 Iraqis told a Gallup survey team that within five years, their lives will be better than before the U.S.-led invasion.

Only eight percent of those queried said they believed their lives would be worse off as a result of the military campaign to remove Saddam and his Baath Party leadership.

The survey, which was conducted in late August and early September, cut across the ethnically diverse landscape of the capital. The results revealed that Iraqis in the capital still maintain a great deal of skepticism about the motives of the United States and Britain, and residents said they hold France and its president, Jacques Chirac, in higher regard than President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Chirac's rating was 42 percent favorable to Bush's 29 percent and Blair's 20 percent.

The poll results also showed that Baghdad residents were nearly evenly divided on whether the occupation authority headed by L. Paul Bremer 3rd was doing a good job, with 28 percent giving it a positive rating and 25 percent saying it is doing a poor job, on a five-point rating scale.

But half of the respondents said that the occupation authority was doing a better job now than it was two months ago, and their view of Bremer himself was remarkably positive, with 47 percent holding a favorable view of him compared to 22 percent who held an unfavorable view.

On possible explanation for the improving view of the occupation authority was its decision in July to turn over significant powers to a 25-member Governing Council of Iraqis, the Gallup findings suggested.

While 75 percent of those polled said that the council's actions were "mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities," the interim government's performance received a favorable rating from 40 percent. Thirteen percent said it was performing poorly.

Several members of the Governing Council told Arab and Western news organizations on Monday that the staffs of the two networks would be expelled from Iraq for a month, but that decision appeared to have been modified in the last 24 hours.

When the text of the decree was issued on Tuesday, the council accused the Arab networks of promoting the return of the Baath Party in Iraq, promoting sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and inciting attacks on the government and its members. Spokesmen for the Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya denied the allegations, saying their correspondents in Iraq sought to air the views of all Iraqis during a time of national crisis.

An informal sampling of Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad found more inclined to support the government's crackdown on the Arab channels, reflecting a popular view here that the Arab leaders supported Saddam Hussein's repressive regime for too long and failed to support his removal despite evidence of widespread human rights abuses. But some Iraqis defended the Arab networks, as Al Sahib, 33, did when he said that expelling or restricting their coverage "will give them a pretext to bark more and to cry with other Arab countries about there be no freedom of press in Iraq."