The latest Iraqi public opinion poll covered three major topics, the second of which was the security situation in the country. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted the poll from August to September 2015 querying 2,000 Iraqis from all parts of the country. The war was by far the most important issue according to the Iraqis questioned. Confidence in the security forces was split along ethnosectarian lines, and most believed that the conflict would last at least another year.
When asked what were the most important issues facing the government security was number one. Nearly half of respondents, 48% said that topic was the biggest issue facing Iraq. With the war still raging in central and western Iraq and Mosul and most of Anbar province still under the Islamic State’s control it was no surprise that Iraqis felt that way. Violence has actually been a pressing issue since early 2013 when the insurgency began picking up after its nadir in 2008-2009. However compared to December 2014 security declined 13% in importance due to improvement in the south. When broken down by region every part of Iraq except the south believed that security was deteriorating. In Baghdad 59% said worse compared to 19% better. In the west 78% said worse, 6% better, and even in Kurdistan 63% responded worse, 31% better. The south was the one exception with 43% feeling security had gotten worse, but 53% felt that it was better. After Mosul fell in June 2014 there was widespread belief that Baghdad would be attacked, which would open the way to the rest of the country. That didn’t happen however and most people in places like Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, etc. now feel relatively secure that IS is not able to reach their provinces leading to the responses in the survey.
Which 2 issues are the most important for the government to address?
Basic Services 37%
High Prices 5%
Central Government-Kurdistan dispute 2%
How important is security for the government to deal with?
June 2012 27% Important
April 2013 31% Important
September 2013 50% Important
February 2014 52% Important
December 2014 61% Important
September 2015 48% Important
Is security getting better or worse?
Baghdad 59% Worse, 19% Better
South 43% Worse, 53% Better
West 78% Worse, 6% Better
Kurdistan 63% Worse, 31% Better
Each major group in Iraq felt differently about the security forces. While 54% said that they trusted the Iraqi army compared to 22% for local forces or 21% both/neither that was skewed by the responses by Shiites. For that group 66% believed that the army protected them, while only 22% of Sunnis did and 12% of Kurds. For Sunnis they were almost evenly split between local forces, 37%, and the army, 34%. Only 8% of Kurds were confident in the army against 64% for local forces meaning the Peshmerga. Another factor was that the three groups saw the composition of the army differently. 60% believed that the army represented all Iraqis against 29% who said it only represented Shiites. Again that was due to 90% of Shiites feeling the army was national in character. The Sunnis and Kurds however thought that the armed forces were Shiite at 58% and 60% respectively. For Sunnis their loyalties were almost evenly split between the armed forces and tribal fighters. They might have had an even better opinion of the army, but it was widely believed that former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purged Sunni officers for loyalists, and then Abadi got rid of Maliki’s men to put in his own. Kurds didn’t look upon the army positively at all given their regions’ history of conflict with the central government. Instead they put their confidence in the Peshmerga.
Who do you trust to keep you safe the Iraqi army or local forces?
Overall 54% Army, 21% Both/neither, 22% Local forces
Shiites 66% Army, 22% Both/neither, 12% Local forces
Sunnis 34% Army, 23% Both/neither, 37% Local forces
Kurds 8% Army, 13% Both/neither, 64% Local forces
Does the army represent all Iraqis or only Shiites?
Overall 60% All Iraqis, 29% Only Shiites
Shiites 90% All Iraqis, 7% Only Shiites
Sunnis 29% All Iraqis, 58% Only Shiites
Kurds 14% All Iraqis, 60% Only Shiites
The Hashd al-Shaabi were seen largely the same way as the army. When asked who did they trust to provide security the army or Hashd the army just inched out the Hashd because of Sunni respondents. Overall, 35% said the army would do the best job, but the Hashd were right there with 31%. Another 25% said both or neither. The army was able to come out ahead because 48% of Sunnis said they would prefer it over the Hashd, 27%. 45% of Shiites on the other hand liked the Hashd more than the army at 30%. Kurds didn’t like either one with 0% saying the army, 1% saying the Hashd and 32% both/neither. Many Sunnis have a negative opinion of the Hashd seeing them as a sectarian Shiite force carrying out mass arrests and destroying property. That opinion is shared by the Kurds as well. The Peshmerga and Hashd have clashed in several areas in Diyala and Salahaddin, and the Kurds believe that the two sides will eventually challenge each other in the future for control of the disputed territories. That leads the Hashd to be seen as a threat. To Shiites the Hashd came to the rescue when Mosul fell and are believed to be protectors of the nation.
Who do you trust more to provide security the army or the Hashd al-Shaabi?
Overall 35% Army, 31% Hashd, 25% Both/neither
Shiites 30% Army, 45% Hashd, 23% Both/neither
Sunnis 48% Army, 4% Hashd, 27% Both/neither
Kurds 0%, 1% Hashd, 32% Both/Neither
Even with those divided opinions a majority of Iraqis believed that the Hashd should be used in the fight against the Islamic State. 81% of Iraqis said that the Hashd be utilized in the war. Unsurprisingly 99% of Shiites supported the idea, as well as 50% of Sunnis versus 42% being opposed. Kurds on the other hand felt the opposite with 80% being against, and 6% for. The next question was how important people felt about the Hashd participating in the fight against IS. 81% said it was very to somewhat important. 100% of Shiites felt that way, 52% of Sunnis and only 5% of Kurds. Again, many Kurds were thinking about Iraq after the war and had strong trepidations about the Hashd, and do not want to see its influence grow fighting the Islamic State. Even though many Sunnis believed the Hashd were a Shiite force around half still wanted them to help in the war effort.
Do you support or oppose the use of the Hashd in the fight against IS?
Overall 81% Support, 16% Oppose
Shiites 99% Support, 1% Oppose
Sunnis 50% Support, 42% Oppose
Kurds 6% Support, 80% Oppose
How important are the Hashd to the fight against IS?
Overall 81% Very/Somewhat Important, 15% Little/Not important
Shiites 100% Very/Somewhat Important, 0% Little/Not important
Sunnis 52% Very/Somewhat Important, 41% Little/Not important
Kurds 5% Very/Somewhat Important, 78% Little/Not important
Most Iraqis believed that the war would last at least a year. People were given five options on how long they believed it would take beat IS. 22% of Shiites, 4% of Sunnis and 3% of Kurds thought it would take 6 months. 31% of Shiites, 15% of Sunnis and 7% of Kurds picked 6-12 months. Most seemed to believe it would take 1-2 years, which 23% of Shiites, 24% of Sunnis, and 17% of Kurds selected. More Sunnis, 30%, and Kurds, 41% however thought it would take 2 or more years versus just 6% of Shiites. There was also a minority who said the war would never end, 1% of Shiites, 5% of Sunnis, and 14% of Kurds. Despite the huge shock of losing Mosul and Tikrit in the summer of 2014 Iraqis seemed to have calmed down and now see the war as something that is finite, meaning that it will eventually end in a few years if not sooner.
How long do you think it will take to defeat IS?
Within 6 months 22% Shiites, 4% Sunnis, 3% Kurds
6-12 months 31% Shiites, 15% Sunnis, 7% Kurds
1-2 years 23% Shiites, 24% Sunnis, 17% Kurds
2 years or more 6% Shiites, 30% Sunnis, 41% Kurds
Never 1% Shiites, 5% Sunnis, 14% Kurds
The Islamic State exacerbated existing fissures within Iraqi society, which were shown in the poll. Respondents for example saw the army and Hashd through an ethnosectarian lense with the Shiites preferring the army and Hashd, against the Sunnis and Kurds who preferred their own forces. There was also a few seeming contradictions. For one, the security situation was seen as getting worse, but most believed that the war would end sooner rather than later. Sunnis and Kurds didn’t like the Hashd but more than half of the former thought they were needed in the fight. What these results show is the complexity of Iraqi society. Things are not as clear cut as they seem. Yes, there are ethnosectarian differences, but they do not always play out as people would think.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, “Lack of Responsiveness Impacts Mood, August-September 2015 Survey Findings,” 11/23/15