With 57 percent giving it top national priority, security dwarfs other concerns. (Next, cited by 10 percent, is getting the United States out of Iraq; 9 percent say it's rebuilding infrastructure, with other options in lower single digits.) In another example of the majority's positive outlook, 70 percent think security nationally will improve in the next year. But that falls to 40 percent in Sunni areas (and 28 percent in Anbar).
Iraqis were asked in this survey what makes them feel unsafe, or if, instead, they feel safe. In a notable improvement, 51 percent say they feel safe -- nearly double what it was in June 2004.
Among the half of Iraqis who do feel unsafe, the main reason given, by far, is terrorism. And many in this "unsafe" group "very often" take a range of steps: avoiding U.S. forces (67 percent), avoiding checkpoints (52 percent), avoiding police and government buildings (47 percent), and being careful what they say (43 percent).
Top security-related priorities for the future are fighting ordinary crime and stopping attacks on civilians and the Iraqi police or army. Stopping attacks on coalition forces comes in much lower.
Despite the growing gap between Sunni and Shiite provinces, confidence in some institutions has risen overall, particularly confidence in the Iraqi Army, up from 39 percent in November 2003 to 67 percent now; and in the police, up from 45 percent to 68 percent (but stable since last year).
Confidence in Public Institutions: Percent Confident
|Ministeries in Baghdad||45%|
As noted, 76 percent of Iraqis express confidence that this week's elections will produce a stable government, although fewer, 42 percent, are very confident of it. Interest in politics has soared -- 39 percent in an Oxford survey in November 2003, 54 percent in February 2004 and 69 percent now. But there's been an 11-point dip since June 2004 in people talking about politics, in what may reflect increased caution in light of the Iraqi insurgency.
The election itself looks wide open, at least from the perspective of these October-to-November interviews. Thirty-seven percent of Iraqis said they hadn't decided which party to support (but were planning to vote). Those with a preference were scattered among a wide range of political parties.
Support for former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Wifaq National Movement, or Iraqi National Accord Movement, was 9 percent; the Kurdish PUK, 9 percent; the Shiite-affiliated Islamic al-Dawa Party, 8 percent. Parties people would "never vote for" include the now-outlawed al-Baath (9 percent) and al-Dawa (7 percent).
National leaders with the greatest trust include the current prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari (15 percent), Allawi (15 percent) and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani (10 percent), with others in single digits. But al-Jaffari also comes up as No. 1 on the don't-trust at-all list, at 12 percent. Such is politics.
As in so many of these issues, a closer look at views on Iraq's future system of government may give pause to policy makers there (and in the United States as well).