Improved security and economic conditions have reversed Iraqis' spiral of despair, sharply improving hopes for the country's future. Yet deep problems remain in terms of security, living conditions, reconciliation and political progress alike.
Fifty-five percent of Iraqis say things in their own lives are going well, well up from 39 percent as recently as August. More, 62 percent, rate local security positively, up 19 points. And the number who expect conditions nationally to improve in the year ahead has doubled, to 46 percent in this new national poll by ABC News, the BBC, ARD German TV and the Japanese broadcaster NHK.
Without directly crediting the surge in U.S. forces, fewer report security as the main problem in their own lives – 25 percent, nearly half its peak last spring. Forty-six percent say local security has improved in the past six months, nearly double last summer's level.
The number of Iraqis who feel entirely unsafe in their own area has dropped by two-thirds, to 10 percent. And with Sunni Arab buy-in, U.S.-funded Awakening Councils, created to provide local security, are more popular than the Iraqi government itself.
Even more striking is the halt in worsening views. In August, Iraqis by 61-11 percent said security in the country had gotten worse, not better, in the previous six months. Today, by 36-26 percent, more say security has improved. The new positive margin is not large. But the 35-point drop in views that security is worsening is the single largest change in this poll.
BEEN BETTER – In almost all cases, however, the improvement since August and March still has not brought Iraqi sentiment back to its pre-2007 levels. While 46 percent now expect improvements for the country in the next year, that's still far below its level in November 2005, 69 percent. While 55 percent say their own lives are going well, that's down from 71 percent in late 2005.
Similarly, while there's been a big drop in the number who cite security as their own main problem, 50 percent still volunteer it as the nation's main problem overall – little changed from 56 percent in August. One in four Iraqis still report suicide attacks, sectarian fighting and other violence in their own area in just the past six months. And the provision of basic services has barely budged; 88 percent lack adequate electricity.
Much of the improvement since August is driven by Baghdad and Anbar provinces, focal points of the surge. Seventy-one percent in Anbar, and fewer in Baghdad but still 43 percent, now rate local security positively – up from zero in both locales last year. While a dramatic gain, most in Baghdad, home to a quarter of Iraqis, still say security is bad – a reflection of continued, albeit reduced, violence there.
Economic improvement complements the security gains. Fifty-seven percent rate their household finances positively, a 20-point jump, again steepest in Baghdad (especially its Sadr City area) and Anbar. The availability of basic consumer goods has soared even more sharply; 65 percent rate it positively, up by 26 points since August to its highest in polls dating to early 2004. And family incomes are up by 26 percent, about $80 a month.