The London Times is claiming today that "Life is getting better" for Iraqis, based on a new poll that was released recently... but if you look at the raw data of that poll, the matter is highly questionable.
First off, the Time's statement that “most Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein” is highly misleading, as they are basing this claim on a question which asks people whether they prefer the previous political system or the current one, and not one which specifically asks whether they believe life is better.
That said, the current political system is most likely preferred by the Shi’a majority in Iraq, which has overwhelming control of the new government. But just because you replace a tyranny of a minority with tyranny of the majority, that doesn't mean that "life is better" than in the past... certainly not for all. And that's what matters when you're trying to bring peace to a diverse, divided country.
Much of the data in the survey is not-so-optimistic.
Amongst other things, it says:
- 26% of those surveyed said they’d had a family member or relative killed within the past three years. These numbers are significantly higher outside of Kurdish territory, where only 5% report losing a family member.
- Less than 1/3rd of Iraqis believe that the recent U.S. “surge” operation was intended to increase security in Iraq. More Iraqis believe the actual goal is to depose the existing government, establish U.S. control of Iraq, attack Iraq’s neighbors, or to kill and destroy Iraqis.
- 53% of Iraqis believe that the security situation will improve in Iraq once Coalition forces withdraw. This percentage increases very significantly if you disregard the Kurdish region of Iraq, where only 15% of the population think that security would improve without Coalition forces.
- Only 15% of Kurds approve of the current governmental system. Most want an independent government. Shi’a, however, overwhelmingly support a strong, central government that imposes its will over the rest of the country. This could lead to significant conflicts in the future.
Among those with a clear preference, Sunni in Iraq prefered the political system under Saddam by a nearly 2-1 margin. 26% of Shi’a feel that the current political system in Iraq is just as bad or worse than the political system under Saddam, and a full third of Shi'a refused to say that Maliki's government was better than Saddam's.
- Approximately 60% of respondents considered themselves unemployed. Those percentages are even higher if you disregard the Kurdish region, where only about 50% were unemployed. These unemployment figures are approximately the same as was seen in the months following the invasion — they have not improved noticeably in years.
Lastly, there are a lot of issues dealing with the survey and methodology which are questionable. ORB, the company who did the survey, is a "pay-per-survey" company. Its chairman touts the fact that he has supplied research for "Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan...", so it's fair to wonder about ORB's potential conflicts of interest or ideological slant.
Lastly, although the survey polled residents in "every one of the eighteen governorates within Iraq", the choice of places within those governates for their clusters seems skewed. Indeed, it appears that the data gathered in Anbar province, for example, was gathered in the far west of Iraq near Ar Rutbah, with no data from cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi, or Samarra. Likewise, we do not know, for example, where in Baghdad their data was gathered, but it most certainly wasn't gathered with the same kind of exactingly random, scientific methodology used by the Lancet Report on Iraqi mortality... the same methodology that the Times falsely smeared just two weeks ago.
The London Times -- making Iraq safe again for the British public / neocon pundits!
(...not so much for the Iraqis.)
*** UPDATE ***
Another excellent critique of this poll is available here, with additional information on the poll.