Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Poll Shows Iraqis Hostile To US

With information that a new poll shows a pretty strong majority of Iraqis think it's just fine to attack American troops -- 61%, up from 47% in January -- I did what I always do: Study the nature of the poll.

I'm a bit out of my element, since I have little idea of how one would conduct a balanced and scientific poll of 1,150 Iraqis. But there are clues that the poll's findings -- which are quite dramatic -- aren't to be trusted to represent an accurate view of Iraq.

The poll was conducted for the Program for International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, so as a product of US academia, it shouldn't be taken at face value. The questions themselves seem straightforward enough, but the sampling is questionable. Pollsters over-sampled Sunnis for "additional precision within this group," adding 150 Sunnis to their 1,000-person balanced sample. Given the highly negative attitude of Sunnis, this would skew the results anti-government and anti-American. How much? Hard to tell.

We can tell is that PIPA and its sister organizations do not receive their funding from conservative organizations. They report a very liberal funding base:
  • Rockefeller Foundation
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  • Tides Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • German Marshall Fund of the United States
  • Compton Foundation
  • Carnegie Corporation
  • Benton Foundation
  • Ben and Jerry's Foundation
  • Americans Talk Issues Foundation
  • Circle Foundation
That's a pretty good indication that the sample will turn out to have a bias. Still, since polling of Iraqi public opinion is rare, it merits a review of other significant news from the survey:
  • Sunnis are the most negative towards America and the new government of Iraq.
  • Iraqis of all ethnic groups are vehemently opposed to attacks on Iraqi police and Army forces (96%), and Iraqi civilians (100%).
  • They see Iran and Syria as destabilizing, as they do America (52%, 55% and 79% respectively).
  • 61% of Iraqis believe the struggle of the last few years has been worth it, down from over 70% in January.
  • They despise Osama bin Laden (94% -- much less popular than America).
In every category, the poll shows Sunnis present the problem. They like bin Laden more and the US less. There's even 5% of them that support attacks on Iraqi civilians, according to the poll.

A better understanding of the validity of the data is needed, and more polls by groups with differeing points of view would be helpful.

In the end, global decisions can't be made based on polling. But even bias will not make the poll all wrong, so we need to remember that we have created a democratic country in Iran, and the next elections could result in a radically anti-American government taking office. That should have an impact on our policies.

It is clear that the war cannot go on there forever. We need to stay there to take out more terror leadership and bring the Iraqi government and security forces up another notch or two. But we also need to create a sense among Iraqis that there will be a hand-over, if not entirely to Iraqi security forces, at least to their forces with the help of someone other than the US, and that it can be done fairly quickly with their cooperation.

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