Barely a quarter of Iraqis say their security has improved in the past six months, a negative assessment of the surge in U.S. forces that reflects worsening public attitudes across a range of measures, even as authorities report some progress curtailing violence.
Apart from a few scattered gains, a new national survey by ABC News, the BBC and the Japanese broadcaster NHK finds deepening dissatisfaction with conditions in Iraq, lower ratings for the national government and growing rejection of the U.S. role there.
More Iraqis say security in their local area has gotten worse in the last six months than say it's gotten better, 31 percent to 24 percent, with the rest reporting no change. Far more, six in 10, say security in the country overall has worsened since the surge began, while just one in 10 sees improvement.
More directly assessing the surge itself -- a measure that necessarily includes views of the United States, which are highly negative -- 65 to 70 percent of Iraqis say it's worsened rather than improved security, political stability and the pace of redevelopment alike.
There are some improvements, but they're sparse and inconsistent. Thirty-eight percent in Anbar province, a focal point of the surge, now rate local security positively; none did so six months ago. In Baghdad fewer now describe themselves as feeling completely unsafe in their own neighborhoods -- 58 percent, down from 84 percent. Yet other assessments of security in these locales have not improved, nor has the view nationally.
Overall, 41 percent report security as their greatest personal problem, down seven points from 48 percent in March. But there's been essentially no change in the number who call it the nation's top problem (56 percent, with an additional 28 percent citing political or military issues). And there are other problems aplenty to sour the public's outlook -- lack of jobs, poor power and fuel supply, poor medical services and many more.
The big picture remains bleak. Six in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going badly, and even more, 78 percent, say things are going badly for the country overall -- up 13 points from last winter. Expectations have crumbled; just 23 percent see improvement for Iraq in the year ahead, down from 40 percent last winter and 69 percent in November 2005.
More than six in 10 now call the U.S.-led invasion of their country wrong, up from 52 percent last winter. Fifty-seven percent call violence against U.S. forces acceptable, up six points. And despite the uncertainties of what might follow, 47 percent now favor the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq -- a 12-point rise.
In a better result for the United States, fewer now blame U.S. or coalition forces directly for the violence occurring in Iraq -- 19 percent, down from 31 percent six months ago; as many (21 percent) blame al Qaeda. (Eight percent blame George W. Bush personally.)
If the United States is unpopular, others fare no better. Seventy-nine percent of Iraqis believe Iran is actively engaged in encouraging sectarian violence in Iraq, up eight points; majorities also suspect Saudi Arabia and Syria of fomenting violence. And the poll finds almost unanimous opposition to most activities of al Qaeda in Iraq; the sole exception is its attacks on U.S. and other coalition forces.