Optimistic Outlook on the Future and Support for Democracy Continues in Iraq

Washington, DC – IRI’s latest Iraq public opinion poll, fielded between September 24-October 4, 2004, suggests that the Iraqi public remains optimistic about the country’s future and determined to hold elections in January 2005.

Despite the continuation of terrorist violence, which the IRI poll indicates has eroded confidence in the Interim Iraqi Government and support for the Interim Prime Minister, morethan 64 percent of Iraqi’s believe that their lives will improve over the next 12 months.  Only 15 percent expressed a fear that their life will get worse.

The positive long-term outlook may reflect the strong belief that the horrors of the past will not repeat themselves.  While many observers and commentators have discussed the possibility of intensified inter-ethnic violence or even civil war, Iraqis remain confident that such will not be the case.  Well over two-thirds of poll respondents claim that the prospect of civil war is not realistic.  An additional 14.8 percent believe such a catastrophe is always possible, but unlikely.

Iraqis by and large also disagree with those that continue to doubt the likelihood of national elections taking place as planned by the end of January.  More than 58 percent of those polled believe that elections will, in fact, be held by the January 31 deadline.  Not only do Iraqis expect the elections to take place, they also plan to participate in large numbers.  More than 85 percent of respondents say they are determined to cast their ballots in this historic election.

It has been reported that IRI’s poll found religious parties and their leaders to be most popular with potential Iraqi voters.  In fact, the poll found less than 40 percent of Iraqis indicating any level of support for a political party, and no single party receiving more than eight percent support.

IRI’s poll also suggests that Iraqi voters are far less attracted by politically militant forms of Islam than many in the West have suggested.  While 40 percent of poll respondents indicated that the endorsement of a cleric or religious organization would make them more likely to support a candidate, 52 percent of respondents expressed the opinion that religion and government should respect each other, but remain separate.

Moreover, those that said their vote could be influenced by the opinion of religious leaders overwhelmingly indicated that more moderate leaders would be most likely to influence them.  When asked, for example, which Cleric might sway their vote, more than 53 percent cited Ali Al-Sistani, who has clearly expressed his support for democratic reform in Iraq.  The militant Muqtada al-Sadr, by way of contrast, was mentioned by only five percent of respondents.

As the world’s attention turns to American politics, the Iraqi people continue to look forward to elections and to putting the foundation in place for a new democracy and a brighter future.  IRI, as part of its overall program to support these noble objectives, will continue to conduct periodic opinion polls as a means of helping Iraqis and non-Iraqis better understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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