Seven out of 10 Iraqis believe the U.S. troop buildup in Baghdad and Anbar province has made security worse in those areas, and nearly as many say their own lives are going badly, according to a new poll conducted by ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Japanese broadcaster NHK.
The poll reveals a disconnect between U.S. commanders' view of a steadily improving situation in Iraq and a bleaker outlook among Iraqis. As Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker prepared to testify before Congress today and Tuesday about the results of the troop increase, poll numbers show that ordinary Iraqis are significantly more likely to say "things are going badly" than in the early days of the increased military presence in March.
Fewer than one-quarter of Iraqis report that things in Iraq are going well, down from 35 percent in March, while the number of people who expect conditions to improve in the next year has declined precipitously.
In November 2005, shortly before Iraq's historic open elections, 69 percent of residents said they believed life would be better in a year. That number decreased to 40 percent last March and 23 percent in the new poll.
The poll showed improvements in some areas since March, including an increase in the number of people who expressed confidence in Iraq's army and police force and a decrease in the number of people expressing confidence in militia groups. And the troop increase appears to have had some benefit for Iraqis, as a greater number of residents in Anbar province and Baghdad &
where most of the additional units are based &
rate local security positively.
Yet many of the differences between the official and popular views of conditions in Iraq are most pronounced in Anbar, where President Bush made a surprise visit last week and declared that "normal life is returning." Although the percentage of Anbar residents who have a favorable view of local security has increased to 38 percent from zero in March, 62 percent still rate security negatively overall. Meanwhile, the level of satisfaction in other quality-of-life categories &
including the availability of jobs, supply of clean water and freedom of movement &
has decreased since March.
Overall, one-quarter of Iraqis say they feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, the same number as before 30,000 additional U.S. troops began arriving in February. In Baghdad and Anbar, none of the people polled said they feel "very safe." Six out of 10 people believe that security is worse in Iraq than six months ago, while just 11 percent believe security has improved.
Iraqis' perception of the security situation appears to conflict with official military data showing a decline in the number of violent incidents across the country. Many Iraqis say the violence has decreased because their freedom of movement has been severely restricted, not because fewer insurgents are planning violent acts.
Significantly fewer people reported confidence in the national government than in March, with a 10-point drop in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's approval level, to 33 percent. Nearly two-thirds of people &
65 percent &
say the government has done a bad job. However, the number of people who said they believe the Iraqi parliament is willing to make necessary compromises increased from 41 to 50 percent.
The poll was based on face-to-face interviews between Aug. 17 and 24, among a random national sample of 2,212 Iraqi adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent.
Poll: 7 of 10 Iraqis say nation has worsened