Dramatic Advances Sweep Iraq, Boosting Support for Democracy

Income also is playing a role in Iraqis' views, with consistently more positive ratings among those who are better-off financially, and particularly difficult conditions for very low-income Iraqis. For example, among the one in 10 who report monthly household incomes under 200,000 dinars (about $175), 84 percent say they lack access to clean water or medical care.

Income is playing more of a direct role in these ratings now than when security was a bigger concern; and indeed the economy for the first time has surpassed security as the top mention when Iraqis are asked the biggest problem in their personal lives.

FOREIGN RELATIONS – There's a trend for the better in Iraqis' views of many of their neighbors. This poll finds sharp declines in negative assessments of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey alike, led by much less criticism among Shiites.

The changes, like so many, are dramatic. In March 2007, 52 percent said Saudi Arabia was playing a negative role in Iraq; it's 32 percent now, including a huge 50-point drop among Shiites (Saudi Arabia is predominantly Sunni). Negative ratings of Syria have gone from 63 percent then to 38 percent now, with a 38-point drop among Shiites; and of Turkey, from 46 percent to 30 percent negative, including a 36-point drop among Shiites.

There's likewise been a 16-point drop in negative ratings of the United Kingdom, from 75 percent in March 2007 to 59 percent now, again led by Shiites. Russia's role is seen as negative by far fewer, 22 percent, but that's gained 9 points. And there's the United States: Sixty-four percent of Iraqis say it's playing a negative role in their country. But that's down from 77 percent in March 2007.

One thing that's not changed, though, is views of Iran, the mainly Shiite nation with which Iraq fought a ruinous war in the 1980s. Sixty-eight percent say Iran is playing a negative role in Iraq, unchanged since 2007.

SHOE GUY – Finally, that still-negative view of the United States is reinforced by attitudes about Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the journalist who threw a shoe at then-President Bush during his visit to Baghdad in December. Twenty-four percent see him as a criminal, for assaulting a visiting foreign head of state. But 62 percent of Iraqis view al-Zeidi as a hero, for expressing the views held by many Iraqi people.

METHODOLOGY – This poll for ABC News, the BBC and NHK was conducted Feb. 17-25, 2009, through in-person interviews with a random national sample of 2,228 Iraqi adults, including oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Mosul, Kirkuk and the Sadr City section of Baghdad. The results have a 2.5-point error margin. Field work by D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul.

Click here for methodological details and additional reports.

Click here for PDF of analysis with charts and full questionnaire.

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