There's another division, on the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk; a referendum there is pending to decide whether it should become part of the Kurdish region. Big majorities of Sunni Arabs (95 percent) and Shiites (80 percent) oppose it; by contrast, every Kurdish respondent in this survey – 100 percent – supported bringing Kirkuk into the so-called Kurdish Autonomous Region.
There's also a difference in assessments of cross-ethnic relations, particularly between Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Fifty-five percent of Kurds say relations between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq are good; just 24 percent of Sunnis agree. And Sunnis stand out in their view that these relations are getting worse; 44 percent say so, while just 15 percent see improvement.
BASRA – Across the country, in the Shiite-dominated south, is another area of interest: Basra, where Iraqi forces assumed responsibility from the British in December. Although there have been recent protests about security in Basra, 68 percent there rate local security positively, as many as in the country overall.
The source of that security, though, is hard to divine: Basra residents are as apt to say local militia have a strong presence in their area (72 percent) as to say Iraqi government forces have a strong presence (an identical 72 percent). That tension may be reflected in another finding: Just 14 percent in Basra, the fewest anywhere, say they have the freedom to go where they want safely.
As Shiites, Iraqis in Basra tend to have a more favorable opinion of the central government – 62 percent confident – than do most Iraqis elsewhere. That level of confidence, however has slipped by 14 points in Basra since August.
WORST OFF – Three other locales are in contention as the worst-off in Iraq: Mosul, Diyala and Kirkuk. The Sunni insurgency al Qaeda in Iraq regrouped in Mosul, a mixed city 240 miles north of Baghdad, after being driven from Anbar when leaders there switched allegiance last year. Diyala province until recently was held by al Qaeda. And Kirkuk has been gripped by ethnic strife linked to the struggle for control of its oil.
Today just 13 percent in Mosul rate their local security positively, as do only 21 percent in Diyala and 34 percent in Kirkuk, compared with 67 percent in the rest of Iraq. A remarkable 70 percent in Diyala and 52 percent in Mosul say security there in fact has gotten worse in the last six months, compared with 12 percent elsewhere. Fifty-two percent in Kirkuk, 36 percent in Mosul and 38 percent in Diyala report a car bomb or suicide attack in their area in the past six months – compared with 25 percent elsewhere.
People in all three locales are more likely than other Iraqis to cite the inability to live where they wish without persecution, and Mosul is far more glum economically; just 28 percent there rate their economic situation positively, compared with 57 percent in Iraq overall. Residents in these three locales are more negative on the country's progress and prospects, and less apt to expect better lives for their children.
Even in Mosul, Diyala and Kirkuk, conditions across many measures have improved compared to six months ago. But the situation there remains deeply troubled – a stark reminder of challenges still facing Iraq.