Monday, March 17, 2008

Improvements - If You Pick Your Timeline

By Cernig

The latest ABC/BBC poll from Iraq is out and ABC are doing sterling work as pro-occupation stenographers by insisting that the only relevant time period to be compared is from the height of violence last Summer until now.
Fifty-five percent of Iraqis say things in their own lives are going well, well up from 39 percent as recently as August. More, 62 percent, rate local security positively, up 19 points. And the number who expect conditions nationally to improve in the year ahead has doubled, to 46 percent in this new national poll
There's a lot more, and it's all being lapped up by conservative pundits. But ABC hardly gets to the really relevant metric - the differences between now and the last time violence was this low. After all, the last time these same levels of violence were enough to cause the breakdown of iraqi civil society. It would not bode well if Iraqi confidence in their society was even lower post-Surge than in 2005. Here's about the only mention ABC gives it:
In almost all cases, however, the improvement since August and March still has not brought Iraqi sentiment back to its pre-2007 levels. While 46 percent now expect improvements for the country in the next year, that's still far below its level in November 2005, 69 percent. While 55 percent say their own lives are going well, that's down from 71 percent in late 2005.

Here's the ABC PDF version - but in many respects the BBC's PDF is clearer, in that it simply presents the data in a nice big type without adding ABC's commentary and charts, which all concentrate on the August-to-now period. The BBC also adds some much-needed perspective:
BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson says the continuing divisions make it "pretty meaningless to talk about 'Iraqi' opinion."

"What counts is how the individual groupings, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish, feel - and especially the Sunnis, since much of the violence is from that quarter," he says.

While 55% of all Iraqis believe that their lives are good, only 33% of Sunnis are happy with their lives, compared with 62% of Shias and 73% of Kurds.

"In spite of all the improvements, the Sunni population of Iraq clearly remains deeply alienated, and deeply hostile," our correspondent says.

...The poll suggests that Iraqis are sceptical about political progress.

Only 21% believe that the increase in US forces has made conditions for political dialogue in Iraq better, while 43% think the surge has made conditions worse.

And 38% want American forces to leave immediately, compared with 35% who want the troops to remain until security has been restored.
A look at the responses to questions now and in 2005 is instructive. In every case, Iraqis are more pessimistic than they were back then, with the percentages answering "much better" or "have great confidence" markedly down. One of the biggest changes in the poll numbers is in those who said they felt "very safe" in their own neighbourhoods - down from 63% in 2005 to 37% now. And 69% of Iraqis think things wouldn't get any worse if US forces left now.

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