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Gallup Poll of Baghdad: Gauging U.S. Intent

Gallup Poll of Baghdad: Gauging U.S. Intent

by Richard Burkholder

Although 62% of Baghdad residents who participated in Gallup's landmark poll of that city said ousting Saddam Hussein was worth any personal hardships they have endured since the invasion, most are deeply skeptical of the initial rationale the coalition has given for its action.

The 2003 Gallup Poll of Baghdad asked respondents to describe, in their own words, why they think the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq. Just 4% of Baghdad's residents said they believe it was done to eliminate weapons of mass destruction -- the principal justification given at the time. Slightly more than 4 in 10 (43%) said the invasion's principal objective was Iraq's oil reserves, while nearly as many (37%) see the invasion as motivated primarily by a desire to topple Hussein's regime.

In addition to oil, others mentioned the country's oil-derived wealth (11%) and its non-petroleum mineral deposits (7%) as motives for the coalition's military action. Some Baghdadis also cited strategic considerations: 14% said the action was intended to colonize and occupy a portion of the Middle East, and 6% said the motivation was a desire to change the "map" of the Middle East in a way more attuned to U.S. and Israeli interests. Just 5% of Baghdadis said the invasion's principal motivation was to assist the Iraqi people, while 15% said the coalition invaded to benefit the people of the United States. Only 1% believe that a desire to establish democracy was the main reason for last spring's assault.

Appraising the Depth of U.S. Commitment to Establishing Democracy

As reported earlier (see "What Form of Government for Iraq?" in Related Items), a multiparty, parliamentary democracy is the single most popular option of the seven possible governmental models tested in this survey of Baghdad residents. If there is significant Iraqi support for democracy, how much confidence is there in America's commitment to help establish a democratic form of government in Iraq?

Approximately half (52%) of the Baghdadis interviewed said they agree with the assertion that "the U.S. is very serious about establishing a democratic system in Iraq," while roughly a third (36%) said they disagree with this characterization of America's intent and commitment.

However, while many appear to see the U.S. commitment to democracy as "very serious," there is also concern about whether the establishment of a democratic system will provide adequate insulation from U.S. pressure and influence. Only about a third (35%) of Baghdad residents agree that "the U.S. will allow Iraqis to fashion their own political future as they see fit without direct U.S. influence," while 51% disagree with this prediction.

Similarly, while Baghdadis hold a generally positive view of the Iraqi Governing Council (61% favorable, 13% unfavorable), just 16% said they think the council is "fairly independent," while three in four (75%) view its policies and decisions as "mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities" (see "Ousting Saddam Hussein ‘Was Worth Hardships Endured Since Invasion,' Say Citizens of Baghdad" in Related Items).

U.S. Commitment to Rebuilding Iraq's Economy

How much confidence exists in America's stated commitment to improving economic conditions in post-conflict Iraq? As with building democracy, roughly half of Baghdadis (51%) believe the United States is "very serious about improving the economic lot of the Iraqis," while more than a third (38%) disagree with this claim. The issue is crucial: Unemployment and underemployment are the rule rather than the exception, and nearly half of Baghdad's residents rated the city's current economic conditions as fairly (25%) or very (22%) bad. Fewer than one in five rated economic conditions as either fairly (16%) or very (1%) good.

Territorial Integrity and Willingness to Withdraw Troops on an Appropriate Timetable

Among Baghdad residents, perceptions are sharply divided on whether the United States can be trusted to maintain the country's political unity, and also regarding America's promise to withdraw its troops as soon as security conditions allow (in President George Bush's words, "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, but not a day more.").

Four in 10 Baghdadis (40%) said they believe the United States is serious about preserving the political unity of Iraq, but a slightly larger number (43%) disagree with this statement, and 17% were unsure.

Thirty-six percent of Baghdad residents said they agree with the prediction that the United States will not remain in Iraq "for as many years as some believe," but nearly half (48%) disagree.

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