(I posted the following item on the WorldNewser blog site last March. With our latest Iraq poll just out today, it's again worth celebrating the courageous field workers behind these surveys. Without them our independent understanding of public opinion in Iraq would be impossible.)
I picked up 130 new heroes this past month. One hundred-thirty men and women who fanned out across Iraq, some in some relatively peaceful areas and others in horribly dangerous ones, armed with nothing more than sheaves of paper, a few pencils and perhaps a sense they were doing important work.
These were the interviewers and field supervisors who produced our national public opinion poll in Iraq. All Iraqis, trained in the principles and practice of survey research, they knocked on more than 3,000 doors in 458 neighborhoods and villages from the Persian Gulf to the Turkish border.
Most of those doors opened. And our interviewers went in, sat down, and asked our questions.
What's your life like here?
Do you think it'll get better in the coming year?
What's the biggest problem? What about the basics — clean water, electricity, economic opportunity? How much confidence do you have in the government, the police, the army, U.S. forces?
What about violence — any of that nearby here? Kidnappings, cab bombs, snipers, fighting between armed forces, abuse of civilians? Do you have friends or family who've been hurt? How's it affecting your own life, the things you do, the way you feel?
These and more questions, enough to fill a half-hour interview. Our interviewers took photos when they were permitted to do so, even a little video. They filled out field journals describing their experiences. Most completed their assignments relatively uneventfully. Some were detained by the police. Others witnessed bombings, shootings, kidnappings and beatings — episodes of the random violence and loss that we now better understand are occurring across Iraq.
Two thousand, two-hundred and twelve interviews later we have our answers. The picture is neither a happy nor a pretty one. But it's compelling and necessary, and there was no other way to get it but through the efforts of these 130 researchers who made it possible for us to tell the story of life in today's Iraq.