2005 Poll: Broad Optimism in Iraq, But Also Deep Divisions Among Groups

Just 11 percent of people in predominantly Sunni-Arab provinces, for example, feel safe in their own neighborhoods, compared with eight in 10 Iraqis in other areas. People in mainly Sunni-Arab areas are far less confident in the Iraqi government, army or police. They're half as likely as those in mainly Shiite provinces to say their own lives are going well and half as likely to expect things to improve in the next year. While 53 percent of people in predominantly Shiite areas say the country as a whole is doing well, a mere 9 percent of those in mostly Sunni provinces agree.

Growing Gaps

Rather than moving toward healing, the gaps between views in Sunni areas versus the rest of Iraq have widened sharply since early 2004, with attitudes worsening in Sunni areas while improving elsewhere. While Iraqis in Shiite, mixed and Kurdish provinces all rate the security situation, their job opportunities, and their family's protection from crime more positively than they did 20 months ago, those in Sunni provinces have grown decidedly more negative.

Similarly, while Iraqis' positive ratings of their lives overall look stable (71 percent today versus 70 percent in 2004), beneath those overall numbers is a 21-point improvement in Shiite areas -- and a 26-point decline in the outlook in Sunni provinces.

The Sunni/Shiite gap has also grown on measures of confidence in key Iraqi institutions. While people in mainly Shiite provinces are 22 points more likely to have faith in the Iraqi army than they were in 2004, in mainly Sunni areas confidence has fallen by 13 points; a 15-point gap has now grown to 50. The divide in views of police similarly has increased by 23 points.

As noted, both Sunni and Shiite communities oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces, but views on the subject in Shiite areas have held steady over the past year and a half, while support for coalition forces in Sunni areas has gone from minimal, 24 percent, to near zero, 4 percent.

Anbar

Attitudes in Anbar -- a Sunni Arab-dominated province that's been a center of anti-coalition sentiment -- are even more extreme than views in other predominately Sunni areas. (Anbar includes Fallujah and the provincial capital, Ramadi.)

Already lower than in non-Sunni areas, confidence in national institutions craters in Anbar: Only three in 10 of those in Anbar have confidence in the police, a scant one in 10 expresses confidence in the new Iraqi army and a mere 4 percent approve of the Iraqi government's performance.

The United States fairs even more poorly in Anbar, where a solitary 1 percent say the U.S.-led invasion was a good thing for Iraq, and not a single respondent expresses confidence in the U.S. and U.K. occupation forces.

While last year's survey identified strong anti-American sentiment in Anbar, the unsettled security situation may help drive the low ratings of Iraqi institutions (only religious leaders are more highly rated in Anbar than elsewhere). Nearly half in Anbar call instability their biggest problem -- 17 points more than in other, already on-edge, Sunni areas -- and just 13 percent say their local security situation is good. Only 28 percent expect security to improve.

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