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Thursday July 23, 2009

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Past Event

A Brookings Saban Center Briefing

Iraqi Public Opinion Amidst Increasing Violence

Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, Islamic World

Event Summary

On September 27, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution joined the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) to release new findings from a second in-depth poll of Iraqi public opinion undertaken by WorldPublicOpinion.org. The first public opinion poll was taken a month after Iraq's historic parliamentary election, and the poll results will help illuminate Iraqi views about the impact of American troops in their country, legitimate prospects for success, and a realistic timetable for withdrawal.

Event Information


Wednesday, September 27, 2006
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM


The Brookings Institution
Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Contact: Brookings Office of Communications

E-mail: events@brookings.edu

Phone: 202.797.6105

Presenting the survey findings were Steven Kull, director of PIPA and editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org. Providing commentary on the findings was Kenneth Pollack, director of research, in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy; and Shibley Telhami, a nonresident senior fellow also in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.


KEN POLLACK: Thank you, Shibley, and thank you, Steven, for another terrific poll. We of course helped you roll out the last poll in January. I think that was a very important and useful contribution, and I think that this falls into exactly the same category. I also thought that your presentation was a very important one. I think that called attention to some things that were very important in my mind when I was going through the data, which are the contradictions and the complexity of the situation. I think that that is very important to keep in mind.

I would start out by highlighting some things, and starting out where you ended, because for me, where you ended really is the most important data that we received from the poll and the thing that the U.S. government needs to be looking at most carefully, and that is the broad question of "do you think that Iraq is headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?" and that fact is that we now have only 47 percent saying that Iraq is in the right direction down from 64 percent in January, the fact is that we have 52 percent saying it is headed up in the wrong direction, up from 36 percent in January. As you have pointed out, this has fluctuated over time, but I think we are finally starting to see polling results that mirror what I and a number of many other Iraq experts have been hearing anecdotally, which is the growing frustration and the growing fears of Iraqis. And I would also marry that up exactly as you did with the question that you asked Iraqis in terms of was it all worth it, was it worth getting rid of Saddam to find yourselves in the situation that you are in today. And, of course, the majority of Iraqis still do believe that because, quite honestly, living in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was like living on hell on earth. It truly was Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear, and it would really take a lot to convince Iraqis that any situation would somehow be worse than living under Saddam; but the fact is that a growing number of Iraqis are saying that.

And just one side note as to the Gallup poll you pointed out, that Gallup poll which showed about the same number was taken in April 2004 which you may remember was one of the real nadirs of the reconstruction. It was a period of time when the Iraqi Governing Council was in complete charge, corruption was absolutely rampant, you had twin revolts in Fallujah by the Sunnis, by Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh Mahdi elsewhere in the South, and that was a really bad moment. If what we are seeing is Iraqis have now gotten to that same level, which is again saying that the trend is a very poor one and that this is headed in the wrong direction.

What I would suggest is that this is important for the U.S. government because in these kinds of counterinsurgency and stability operations we need to remember that Iraq has both problems of an insurgency and a failed state, it is both of those things together, and one of the measures that is out there is that these kinds of public opinion indices can be very troubling in both sets of situations; that when you have public opinion downwards, whatever the reason, it is a very bad sign for the government in both of these kinds of situations.



Kenneth M. Pollack

Director of Research, Saban Center for Middle East Policy


Steven Kull

Director, The Program on International Policy Attitudes

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