Security Gains Reverse Iraq's Spiral
Though Serious Problems Remain

This poll, marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war on March 19, 2003, is the fifth in Iraq by ABC News and other media partners. It consists of face-to-face interviews with a random national sample of more than 2,200 Iraqi adults.

CHALLENGES – Challenges remain broad and deep. Beyond their own lives, most Iraqis, 55 percent, still say things are going badly for the country, even if that's down from a record 78 percent in August. Violence remains common, particularly in the cities; local car bombs or suicide attacks, just within the past six months, are reported by 45 percent in Baghdad, 51 percent in Kirkuk and 39 percent in Mosul.

Living conditions for many remain dire, with sizable majorities reporting a lack of electricity, fuel, clean water, medical care and sufficient jobs. Improvement in all these has been modest at best. Six in 10 say they can't live where they choose without facing persecution, although this, too, is well down from its peak.

Sectarian differences remain vast. While more than six in 10 Shiites and seven in 10 Kurds say their own lives are going well, that drops to a third in the Sunni Arab minority. Eighty-three percent of Sunnis rate national conditions negatively. And while half of Shiites and six in 10 Kurds expect their children's lives to be better than their own, a mere 12 percent of Sunnis share that most basic hope.

Ratings of the national government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remain weak – 43 and 40 percent positive, respectively – and sharply split by sectarian group. Just half think legislators are willing to compromise on key issues. The country divides on the state of Sunni-Shiite relations, and Arab-Kurdish relations are rated more negatively.

In a telling result, one question asked Iraqis whether this is a good time for the millions who have fled the country to return. Forty-five percent say yes, now is the time for those Iraqis to come back – but 54 percent say it's not. (Not surprisingly, where security is rated positively, Iraqis are 20 points more likely to say it's time to return.)

THE U.S. – Views of the United States, while still broadly negative, have moderated in some respects. Just shy of half, 49 percent, now say it was right for the U.S.-led coalition to have invaded, up by 12 points from August; the previous high was 48 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004.

Similarly, the number of Iraqis who call it "acceptable" to attack U.S. forces has declined for the first time in these polls, down to 42 percent after peaking at 57 percent in August. Even with a 15-point drop, however, that's still a lot of Iraqis to endorse such violence. (Just 4 percent, by contrast, call it acceptable to attack Iraqi government forces.)

Sunni Arabs, dispossessed by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, are a good example. In August 93 percent of Sunnis called it acceptable to attack U.S. forces. Today, that's down to 62 percent – a dramatic decline, but one that still leaves six in 10 Sunnis on the side of anti-U.S. attacks.

Other measures are a little better, if not good. Just 20 percent of Iraqis express confidence in U.S. forces, up slightly from 14 percent last summer. Just 29 percent say U.S. forces have done a good job in Iraq, up 10 points. Only 27 percent say the presence of U.S. forces is making overall security better in Iraq, up 9 points; 61 percent say it's making things worse.

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