Terror Attacks Diminishing but Iraq’s Politicians Still Shoulder the Blame
June 3rd, 2012, Paul Marshall

Terror Attacks Diminishing but Iraq’s Politicians Still Shoulder the Blame

A YouGov & Al Aan research study in Iraq has seen the first significant shift in the perceptions of respondents regarding the frequency of terrorist attacks but has this led to greater support for the current government?

A quarterly research study amongst YouGov’s Iraq panel members was launched in October 2011 (Wave 1 = 514 interviews) to track and gain insight into residents’ key narratives regarding security, government and personal circumstances. This questionnaire was repeated in February/March 2012 (Wave 2 =507 interviews) and May 2012 (Wave 3 =518 interviews). In the latest results from May 2012:

  • The majority (54%) believe terrorist attacks have decreased in the past 3 months
  • Less than a sixth of respondents (15%) expect attacks to increase over the next 3 months
  • 39% believe Iraqi politicians shoulder the greatest responsibility for the death of Iraqi civilians

Whilst the perception terrorist attacks have decreased is clearly a positive and based on international news reporting, it seems to be backed up by reality – other results from the survey, do not make pleasant reading for the current government of Nouri al-Maliki.

In January 2012, at least six explosions merited mention in the international media, compared to four in December and four in November. Unsurprisingly, therefore, one third (32%) of respondents in Wave 2 (Feb/March 2012) thought terrorist attacks had increased in the previous 3 months. However in our latest research this drops to 6% and 54% believe that attacks have actually decreased for the period March-May 2012.

It is interesting to note Iraqi politicians were still held responsible for the deaths of Iraqi civilians by almost two in five respondents (38%) in Wave 2 of the research (Feb/March 2012). In the latest research, as with Waves 1 and 2, we see significant differences in the proportioning of blame based on the location of those completing the survey. By segmenting respondents based on whether they live in a predominantly Sunni or Shia region (not including Baghdad, which is treated separately), we see those in Shia regions are much more likely to blame Al Qaeda (29%), while those in Sunni regions point at Iranian led militias (31%). In Sunni regions, the Iranian led militias are held as equally responsible as Iraqi politicians (31%) - possibly due to perceived links between the two groups in this community. In Shia regions, Al Qaeda (29%) is held second most accountable, far behind Iraqi politicians (43%).

The latest wave of research also shows:

  • Fewer than one in ten score the current government higher than 8 for “overall performance” out of 10.
  • Half of those in predominately Shia regions claim to trust the current government to act based on the will of the Iraqi people.
  • Only a slight improvement in “trust in the current government” from those living in predominately Sunni regions and Baghdad, compared to previous waves.

The latest poll suggests a perceived improvement in the government’s performance, with twice as many saying at least 8 out 10 when asked to rate its performance compared to previous waves - it is important to note this still only translates to fewer than 1 in 10 (7%). Around one third of respondents still give the government a rating of 1 out of 10 on its performance. The increase in those choosing “8 or above” is driven by those living within the predominately Shia regions of Iraq (where 16% of respondents select “8 or above”, an increase from 7% in Wave 2 and 4% in Wave 1). There was no increase in those choosing “8 or above” outside of the Shia regions.

This finding is replicated when respondents are asked about their level of trust in the current government to act based on the will of the Iraqi people. Those living in the predominately Shia regions show an increased level of trust in the current government (up to 49%), compared to one-third (32%) in Wave 1. In both the Sunni dominated regions and in Baghdad, those saying they ‘trust a little’, only increased very slightly, up 6% points from Wave 1 to 20% and 28% respectively. Amongst those in Kurdistan, trust has dropped over the same period from 15% who trusted “at least/a little” in Wave 1, to 9% in Wave 3.

  • Support for a democratically elected government is the highest it has ever been across waves and is for the first time, the most selected answer option in Baghdad and Sunni dominated regions.
  • It is worth noting that those living in the predominately Sunni regions are moving from an outright "no” response when asked about future voting intention to “don’t know” rather than “yes”.

A democratically elected government is the number one choice for respondents in both the Sunni dominated regions (44%) and Baghdad (47%), as well as the Shia dominated regions (48%). This is in contrast with Waves 1 and 2 where ’a strong leader regardless of whether democratically elected’ was the most selected option in Sunni dominated regions (38% and 46%, respectively); in Baghdad this option was the choice of 40% of respondents in Wave 1 and 44% in Wave 2. It will be interesting to see if this change is an indication of a real shift in attitude or a short lived one.

When it comes to claimed ‘voting intention’ the most noticeable shift in the Sunni dominated regions was a doubling of those saying “don’t know” (6% in Wave 1vs. 13% in Wave 3). In the previous two surveys, one-third of those in Sunni dominated regions stated they ‘would definitely vote’ or ‘do so dependent on government performance’- this remains the case in the latest survey. There has been a fall in those stating they will ‘definitely not vote’ to 26%, compared to a third in Wave 1 (34%) and Wave 2 (32%). In Baghdad, little has changed since October 2011 with two fifths (43%) stating they will “definitely vote” or do “dependent on government performance”. The majority (53%) in the predominantly Shia regions now claim they will “definitely vote”, up from the 45% and 46% seen in Waves 1 and 2, respectively.

A perceived decrease in terrorist attacks since the previous wave has not led to more respondents feeling positive about their own financial future in Iraq. In Wave 2 less than a half (46%) of respondents felt ’quite’ or ‘very positive’ about their own financial future in Iraq and this is the same in the latest wave. More than half of respondents (56%) remain ‘not at all satisfied’ with the government’s performance in generating employment, which is consistent with the previous surveys (58% in Wave 1 and 57% in Wave 2). In the latest wave, over half of respondents claim to be ‘not at all satisfied’ with ‘infrastructure improvement’ (60%), ‘rebuilding of cities’ (54%) and ‘provision of basic services’ (51%). The greatest levels of dissatisfaction in the most recent poll are seen when it comes to ‘stopping corruption’, with three-quarters (75%) claiming to be ‘not at all satisfied’ on this front.

The results are based on a survey of Iraqi YouGov online panel members resident in Iraq. Surveys were undertaken in October 2011 (514 interviews), February/March 2012 (507 interviews) and May 2012 (518 Interviews). The sample is broadly representative of the urban adult population in Iraq.