Saturday, May 29, 2004

# Posted 12:54 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FASCINATING NONSENSE: I have absolutely no idea what to make of the polls coming out of Iraq. The most comprehensive poll, conducted by USA Today/CNN/Gallup, starts out sounding like a White House press release. More Iraqis say they are better off rather than worse off since the invasion. More than 60% think Iraq will be better off in five years than it was before the invasion.

Then the news gets even better: 40% of Iraqis identify democracy as the best form of government for Iraq, with only 12% preferring an Iranian model. 50% think that five years from now Iraq will be a democracy, with no other form of government getting more than 12 percent. (Imagine asking Americans the same question!) Finally, and almost unbelievably, an overwhelming majority of Iraqis favor constitutional provisions protecting freedom of religion (73%), freedom of assembly (77%), and freedom of speech (94%).

Now here's the bad news: The CPA approval rating is just 23%, with 46% against it. The split for the US as a whole is 23-55. The UN split is 33-23 with 37 undecided. 50% say the US isn't serious about establishing a democratic system, while 37% say it is. 55% say the US won't leave unless it is forced out. When it comes to occupation forces, 45% want them gone after June 30th while another 45% don't.

By the way, don't forget to adjust all of these numbers about 15% in the unhappy direction, since the Kurds are cheerleaders for the Bush-Cheney re-election effort. For example, 96% of them see the US favorably and 98% believe it wants to promote democracy in Iraq.

So, what can one say about numbers like this? First of all, despite the apparent contradictions, I think the numbers are probably sound since an ABC News poll in February got very similar results. According to ABC, Iraqis are happy with how things are, think they're getting better, but want the US out. 49% want democracy and only 21% want an Islamic state (but 28% want a strong leader "for life". Also, another finding that I could only believe after reading it in both polls was that a strong majority of Iraqis have favorable opinions of the new police and armed forces.

Albeit hesitantly, I'm going to describe these polls as good news. It would be almost unthinkable for Iraqis to still have a positive opinion of an occupying power this long after the initial invasion. But the Iraqis' optimism about the future and faith in democracy suggest that the country may really have a chance.
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