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

Overall, as noted, 57 percent of Iraqis prefer democracy to either strongman rule or an Islamic state. But preference for democracy falls under 50 percent among people in Shiite areas (45 percent) and Sunni areas (38 percent) alike. Democracy is boosted to a majority by its support in Kurdish provinces and in mixed Shiite/Sunni areas, chiefly the capital, Baghdad.

At the same time, that result measures support for democracy "now," which for some Iraqis may be constrained by concern about the country's current situation. When Iraqis instead are asked which of these systems they prefer not now, but in five years' time, support for democracy is a bit higher -- 64 percent -- mainly at the expense of support for a strong leader. And in this formulation it reaches a majority in all groups, albeit still with some substantial differences.


Finally, this survey asked about women's rights in Iraq, and found a broad range of responses: On one hand 99 percent of Iraqis support women voting or working as medical doctors; on the other fewer than half say a woman should be able to serve as president; and fewer still, 38 percent, say women should be eligible to serve as an elected village or town chief, known as a mukhtar.

These views, surprisingly in the less-tolerant cases, are almost identical among men and women. The differences instead, as in so much in Iraq, appear in the regions. In Kurdish areas, 76 percent say a woman should be able to be elected as mukhtar. In Shiite-dominated areas it's 56 percent. But that falls to 32 percent in mixed Shiite-Sunni areas, and bottoms out at just 6 percent in mainly Sunni provinces.

The range is similar for other offices. Seventy-one percent of Kurds say a woman should be able to serve as president; in Sunni areas this dives to 21 percent. And it goes lower: In Anbar province, the conservative center of Sunni discontent, just 8 percent would accept a woman as president of Iraq.


This poll was conducted for ABC News, Time magazine, the BBC, NHK and Der Spiegel by Oxford Research International. Interviews were conducted Oct. 8 to Nov. 22, 2005, in person, in Arabic and Kurdish, among a random national sample of 1,711 Iraqis age 15 and up. The results have a 2.5-point error margin. Details of the survey methodology are available upon request.

This analysis examines regions where different groups dominate, based primarily on data from the February 2004 Iraq poll. Predominantly Shiite Arab provinces were identified as Basra, Kerbala, Missan, Najaf, Qadissiyah and Wassit, all in the South. Predominantly Sunni Arab provinces are Anbar, Diyala, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din. Mixed provinces are Babil, Baghdad and Tameem, and predominantly Kurdish provinces in the North are Dokuhk, Erbil and Suleymaniya. The two remaining provinces, Muthanna and Thi-Qar, both in the mainly Shiite South, were not selected in the random-sampling process in this survey.

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