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"Suffering" in Iraq Highest Since 2008

"Suffering" in Iraq Highest Since 2008

More Iraqis experiencing negative emotions daily, as U.S. withdraws forces

by Stafford Nichols

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The percentage of Iraqis who rate their lives poorly enough to be considered "suffering" rose from 14% in October 2010 to 25% in September 2011. This is a reversal of the positive trend between 2008 and 2010.

Percentages suffering and thriving in Iraq

The 7% of Iraqis who rate their lives highly enough to be "thriving" in September is among the lower ratings Gallup has recorded since 2008.

Gallup classifies respondents' well-being as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale.

The percentage of Iraqis who are suffering in 2011 is among the highest in the Middle East and North Africa region and the percentage who are thriving is among the lowest. The current percentage of Iraqis who are suffering is still lower than the high of 30% recorded in June 2008, just prior to the end of intense sectarian fighting in the country. However, the recent rise comes at a delicate time in Iraq as the U.S. withdraws its military forces from the country and a new political crisis threatens to rekindle sectarian conflict.

The last official U.S. military convoy unit to leave Iraq rolled into Kuwait on Dec. 18. A day later Iraq's Shiite-dominated government accused Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, of running a terrorist hit squad. Several days later, a series of bombings ripped through Baghdad, primarily in Shiite neighborhoods, killing more than 69 people. Last week, the deadliest bombings in more than a year targeted Shiites again and left more than 78 people dead, raising more concerns about sectarian conflict.

Iraqis' Anger and Stress Soars

Iraqis' daily emotional well-being has deteriorated along with the recent drop in life ratings. Gallup asks respondents questions about which emotions they experienced during much of the previous day. The percentage of Iraqis experiencing stress has doubled from 34% in 2008 to 70% in September 2011, and the percentage experiencing anger has increased from 38% to 60% over the same period.

Iraqis were more likely to say they experienced negative emotions such as sadness, stress, and anger in September 2011 than to say they felt enjoyment and happiness. This trend has persisted since 2008 when Gallup first asked these questions.

Percentage experiencing certain emotions in Iraq

Bottom Line

With Iraqis' life ratings dropping and negative emotions rising, leaders should work to restore public sanguinity and confidence. Compared with when the suffering rate was 30% in 2008, there now are less security forces in Iraq, and Iraqis are angrier and more stressed.

Policymakers must be watchful of shifting public perceptions to prevent further violence. A stressed, angry population whose well-being is decreasing is not conducive to stability. While it is difficult to draw direct comparisons, political unrest followed similar increases in suffering in Afghanistan and Iran in 2011 and in Egypt and Tunisia in 2010, suggesting that these quantitative indicators should not be ignored.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with about 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between June 2008 and September 2011 in Iraq. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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