ABC News reports:
Dramatic advances in public attitudes are sweeping Iraq, with declining violence, rising economic well-being and improved services lifting optimism, fueling confidence in public institutions and bolstering support for democracy.
The gains in the latest ABC News/BBC/NHK poll represent a stunning reversal of the spiral of despair caused by Iraq’s sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007. The sweeping rebound, extending initial improvements first seen a year ago, marks no less than the opportunity for a new future for Iraq and its people. . .
While deep difficulties remain, the advances are remarkable. Eighty-four percent of Iraqis now rate security in their own area positively, nearly double its August 2007 level. Seventy-eight percent say their protection from crime is good, more than double its low. Three-quarters say they can go where they want safely – triple what it’s been.
Few credit the United States, still widely unpopular given the post-invasion violence, and eight in 10 favor its withdrawal on schedule by 2011 – or sooner. But at the same time a new high, 64 percent of Iraqis, now call democracy their preferred form of government. . .
The number of Iraqis who call security the single biggest problem in their own lives has dropped from 48 percent in March 2007 to 20 percent now. Two years ago 56 percent called it the single biggest problem for the country as a whole; that’s down to 35 percent now, including a 15-point drop in the last year alone. Fifty-nine percent now feel “very” safe in their communities, up 22 points from last year and more than double its lowest. Recent local fighting among sectarian forces is reported by 6 percent, compared with 22 percent a year ago.
Optimism and confidence have followed. Sixty-five percent of Iraqis say things are going well in their own lives, up from 39 percent in 2007 (albeit still a bit below its 2005 peak). Fifty-eight percent say things are going well for Iraq – a new high, up from only 22 percent in 2007. Expectations for the year ahead, at the national and personal levels, also have soared, after crashing in 2007. And the sharpest advances have come among Sunni Arabs, the favored group under Saddam Hussein, deeply alienated by his overthrow, now re-engaging in Iraq’s national life. . .
Basic views on governance also mark the sea change in Sunni views: In March 2007 58 percent of Sunnis said the country needed a “strong leader – a government headed by one man for life” (presumably a throwback to their one-time protector, Saddam), while just 38 percent preferred a democracy. Today that’s more than flipped: Sixty-five percent of Sunnis want a democracy; just 20 percent, a strong leader.
Critically, there’s been a complementary change among Shiites – in their case a drop in preference for an Islamic state from 40 percent in 2007 to 26 percent now, and a concomitant 21-point rise in favor of democracy. Kurds, for their part, have been and remain broadly pro-democracy.
There’s much more. It is a pity they don’t credit the United States, but gratitude was never the point. The point is that Iraq is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism, nor a danger of becoming so again. Besides, why should Iraq be different from other democracies that exist due to American efforts (which is to say nearly all of them)?