A new public opinion poll shows more Iraqis favor Democratic challenger John Kerry than President Bush, who launched the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But more than half of the 2,000 peopled polled throughout Iraq don't care who wins the U.S. presidency in next week's election.
The new survey of Iraqi public opinion was conducted last week by Iraq's Center for Research and Strategic Studies in Baghdad. The group, which has been operating in Iraq for about a year, says its latest survey indicates that among Iraqis with a preference, Mr. Kerry leads President Bush by 6.5 percentage points. The poll has a margin of error of four percent.
But the director of the center, former Iraqi exile Sadoun al-Dulame, says 58 percent of the respondents said they don't care who wins the U.S. presidential election.
"But in the end, those who said they care about what happens in America, Kerry [is] in front of Bush," he noted. "22.5 percent said we prefer to see Kerry as the next American president. And those who said we prefer Bush just 16 percent, no more. And, that's a decline for Bush because when we asked the Iraqis two months ago, Bush was in front of Kerry."
In a further breakdown of the statistics, Mr. al-Dulame said 60 percent of Kurdish respondents from northern Iraq said they support Mr. Bush. Most Kurds were staunch opponents of Saddam Hussein.
The poll indicated 75 percent of Arab Iraqis who have an opinion support John Kerry. Mr. Dulame said Iraqis from the Shiite muslim majority generally prefer President Bush. But a large majority of Sunnis responding to the survey oppose the president. Saddam Hussein is a Sunni Muslim.
A more immediate gauge of Iraqi public opinion is often heard on Baghdad's call-in radio station, Radio Dijla. Dijla is Arabic for Tigris, one of Iraq's major rivers.
The head of the radio station is Ahmad al-Rikaby. He says President Bush's popularity in Iraq has steadily been on the decline.
Mr. al-Rikaby says, in the beginning, Mr. Bush's popularity was very high because he led the effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power. However, he says many Iraqis now believe President Bush has failed to deliver on promises of reconstruction, improved services and better security. He says Mr. Bush's popularity in Iraq is very low right now.
And, while most Iraqis know little or nothing about John Kerry, Mr. al-Rikaby says many Iraqis are more inclined to support the Democratic Party candidate, in hopes that he would be able to provide more services for Iraqis, especially in the area of security.