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Poll Shows Fear, Uncertainty Among Baghdad Residents - 2003-07-17

A poll of Baghdad residents reflects a mood of fear, uncertainty and some ambiguity among local residents. The survey was commissioned by a British magazine and a broadcasting organization.

To say the least, it was a difficult assignment. The British polling firm, YouGov, sent a small team to the Iraqi capital, and trained university students as interviewers. They conducted surveys in 20 areas of the city, gaining insights from a broad cross-section of the Baghdad population.

Nearly 800 people were interviewed, at times amid a backdrop of sporadic gunfire and occasional explosions.

What the first western-style survey reveals are the mixed feelings felt by Iraqis three months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In the poll, commissioned by Britain's Spectator magazine and Channel Four television news, half of those questioned believed the war was right, but most dismissed one of the main reasons given by the coalition for initiating the war, namely to seek and destroy weapons of mass destruction.

Most of those surveyed believed the U.S.-led operation was designed to secure oil supplies and to help Israel. Twenty-three percent believe the goal was to liberate them from Saddam Hussein.

As to their current view of American and British forces stationed in the country, half of the respondents said they felt neither friendly nor hostile toward them. A quarter said they feel friendly toward the foreign forces, and 18 percent said they feel hostile, or very hostile, toward the troops. And half the respondents said they had wanted the coalition troops to be out of Iraq by now.

Asked whether they prefer rule by Saddam or by the U.S.-led coalition, only nine percent said they prefer Saddam, but nearly half of the people expressed no preference. Twenty-nine percent said they prefer the coalition.

The Baghdad survey also indicated that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on how Iraq should be governed in the future. Only 36 percent said they want a western-style democracy. Twenty-six percent prefer an Islamic government tempered with modern forms of justice and punishment.

The survey teams found that, despite decades of dictatorship, average Iraqis were very forthcoming in expressing their opinions. And those included frustration over the current living conditions in the country.

Three-quarters of the respondents said Iraq has become a more dangerous place. Eighty percent said they are affected by power cuts. Two-thirds said they fear being attacked in the streets and half said they lack clean drinking water. But there is a sense of at least cautious optimism. Only a third of the people said their lives are better now than they were a year ago. But more than half said they expect their lives to improve in the next five years.