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Ousting Saddam Hussein "Was Worth Hardships Endured Since Invasion," Say Citizens of Baghdad

by Richard Burkholder, International Bureau Chief

Gallup Survey of Iraqi Capital Shows Residents Divided on Invasion's Short-Term Effects, but Optimistic About Future

In the first rigorous, scientifically conducted sampling of public sentiment in Iraq, residents of the country's capital say -- by a 2-to-1 margin -- that the ousting of Saddam Hussein was worth any hardships they might have personally suffered since the U.S. and British-led invasion (62% yes, 30% no).

Gallup interviewed a total of 1,178 adult residents in 122 separate locations across Baghdad between Aug. 28 and Sept. 4. Unlike other recent surveys of Iraqis -- for which interviewing was conducted only in public places, using "convenience" or "quota sampling" -- all respondents in the Gallup survey were interviewed in the privacy of their own homes, and were selected on a strict probability basis. Only a rigorous, scientific research design of this nature can provide accurate measurement of public sentiment, particularly on sensitive and controversial issues.

Baghdad's citizens overwhelmingly believe removing Saddam Hussein was "worth it" despite the fact that virtually all (94%) say that the city is now a more dangerous place for them than it was before the invasion, and despite the fact that most have had to endure extended periods without such basic amenities as electricity (99%) or clean drinking water (69%) since the invasion.

Because of these and other continuing hardships, opinions are divided as to whether the effects of the invasion have, thus far, been positive for the country as a whole. A third (33%) say Iraq is already "much better off" (4%) or "somewhat better off" (29%) than before the invasion, but those saying so are outnumbered by those who say it is currently "much worse off" (15%) or "somewhat worse off" (32%) than before.

Looking to the future, however, the overwhelming expectation is for improvement. Fully two-thirds (67%) believe that Iraq will be somewhat (35%) or much (32%) better off five years from now than it was before the Hussein regime was ousted, while only a small minority (8%) expects that the country will be worse off (4% somewhat, 4% much) than it was before the U.S. and British-led invasion.

Important Differences in Perceptions Across City's Religious and Economic Groups

The survey's findings also make it clear that there are dramatic differences in sentiment between those groups that were "haves" and "have-nots" under the previous regime.

Opinions among the residents of the mixed-sect (and relatively affluent) Al Karkh district, for example, are divided evenly between those who think the removal of Hussein was "worth it" in that it justified any hardships introduced by invasion (47%), and those who disagree with this assessment (47%).

In contrast, the residents of Sadr City (formerly Saddam City) feel overwhelmingly that the removal of that regime justified any hardships they may have endured since the invasion (78% agree, 16% disagree). This sprawling Shiite ghetto, with well over a million inhabitants, suffered the harshest forms of repression and deprivation under the Hussein regime.

"Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S., Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?"

Percentage in a given area, saying: "Yes, was worth it" (points = sample locations)

Appraisals of the United States, Britain, France, Coalition Provisional Authority, and Iraqi Governing Council

The fact that the United States and Britain led the military action that toppled the former regime does not translate into favorable sentiment for these nations -- indeed France, which resolutely opposed a second Security Council resolution sanctioning military action, is held in significantly higher regard by those in Iraq's capital city. An outright majority (55%) holds a mostly (38%) or very (17%) favorable view of France, while just 12% say their appraisal of France is mostly (7%) or very (5%) unfavorable.

Appraisals of both the United States and Britain, however, are more likely to be negative than positive. Nearly half of Baghdadis (44%) have a negative view of the United States (21% somewhat not favorable, 23% not favorable), and an even higher percentage (48%) views Britain negatively (23% somewhat not favorable, 25% not favorable at all). Only about one in four Baghdadis have a predominantly positive view of the two leading coalition partners; 29% for the United States (20% mostly favorable, 9% very favorable), and 24% for Britain (16%, 8%), which ruled Iraq as a mandate until the country was granted independence in 1932.

Interestingly, despite the predominantly negative light in which both Britain and the United States are viewed, assessments of the Coalition Provisional Authority are mixed. Residents of Baghdad are slightly more likely, on balance, to hold a favorable (mostly or very favorable: 36%) view of the CPA than an unfavorable one (somewhat or not favorable at all: 32%); the remaining third gives it a neutral rating of "3" on a 5-point scale (32%). It should be noted, however, that the percentage holding a not favorable at all view of the CPA -- 16% -- is higher than the percentage holding a very favorable view of it (9%).

The nascent Iraqi Governing Council, a 25-member body inaugurated in mid-July, is viewed positively by a majority (61%) of Baghdad's residents. More than a third (36%) say they have a somewhat favorable impression of the IGC, and the percentage who describe their view of the IGC as very favorable (25%) significantly exceeds those whose view of it is either somewhat (7%) or not favorable at all (6%).

Appraisals of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, and Paul Bremer

Less than a third (29%) of Baghdadis hold a favorable view of President George W. Bush (just 9% like him very much), and fewer still -- just one in five (20%) -- view British Prime Minister Tony Blair positively (6% like him very much). Roughly half rates each man unfavorably (Bush: 50%, Blair: 51%), and at least a third rates these two leaders as not liked at all (Bush: 37%, Blair: 34%).

Much, though not all, of the positive light in which France is held also extends to French President Jacques Chirac: 42% say they view Chirac favorably (11% like him very much), while 20% have an unfavorable view (12% do not like him at all) of the French leader.

Particularly notable, however, are the favorability ratings accorded the CPA's chief administrator, Paul Bremer. Residents of Baghdad are twice as likely to say they hold a favorable (47%) view of Bremer as an unfavorable one (22%) -- his net favorability (+25) is thus significantly higher than that accorded the CPA itself (+4), the United States (-15), or President Bush (-21). Only a relatively small proportion goes so far as to say it does not like Bremer at all (15%), and those who do are offset by a similar number who say they like him very much (also 15%).

Coalition Provisional Authority Given Modest Rating, but CPA's Performance Seen as Improved in Past Two Months

Residents of Baghdad are split between the 25% who say they think the CPA is doing a poor job (somewhat bad 12%, very bad 13%) and the 28% who rate its performance as either somewhat (25%) or very (3%) good. However, a larger proportion, 43%, gives the CPA a middling rating of "3" on a 5-point evaluative scale.

Despite this modest assessment, half (50%) of all Baghdadis say they think the CPA is now doing a better job overall than was the case two months ago, while just 14% think the CPA's performance has gotten worse over that period, and one in three (33%) sees no difference. In addition, as noted above, senior CPA administrator Bremer appears to be well thought of personally.

It may come as a surprise to Western observers that Sadr City -- the devout, conservative Shiite stronghold formerly known as "Saddam City"-- is generally supportive of the CPA's performance thus far (37% positive, 13% negative). Conversely, in Al Karkh (a district that includes the upscale, largely Sunni neighborhood of Mansur), negative appraisals of the CPA's performance outnumber positive ones by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 (38% negative, 20% positive). Still, a sizable number in both districts appears to feel the CPA's performance has improved during the past two months (Sadr: 46% better job, 9% worse job; Al Karkh: 44% better, 22% worse).

Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) Draws Modest Initial Support

One possible reason for the perceived improvement in the recent performance of the CPA may be its inauguration in mid-July of the Iraqi Governing Council -- a first step toward the resumption of self-government in Iraq. Although Baghdadis are deeply skeptical that the IGC has yet been given substantive authority and independence -- fully 75% say they believe its policies and decisions are still "mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities" -- they are more likely to give the IGC a positive (40%) than negative (13%) performance assessment thus far.

As with the CPA, many Baghdad residents appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the IGC -- only small minorities rate its performance to date as either "very good" (8%) or "very bad" (7%), a substantial portion, 42%, give it a neutral "3" rating on a 5-point scale.

Note : Nearly 150 separate question items were included in the 70-minute survey of Baghdad residents, all of which will be released and analyzed in coming days and weeks via Gallup's premium publication, The Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing.

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