Sunday, March 18, 2007

Life is getting better all the time?

I'm not much of a believer in polls and I'm notoriously bad with numbers but even someone as math challenged as myself can see how The Times of London skewed the results of this poll to wrongly conjecture that the majority of Iraqis are optimistic or believe they're better off under the occupation.

Fortunately for all us, math whiz Cernig digs up the original report and crunches the numbers behind this propaganda piece. Unsurprisingly, he comes up with a more realistic result.
So now we can see that the majority of Iraqis think their country is either already in a civil war or teetering on the brink of one and that only 5% of Sunnis think that a descent into civil war is something that can never happen. That's not quites so good news, is it? Given that and the fact that the majority Shiites have numbers on their side in any such war, what is surprising is that marginally more Sunnis think that the situation will still improve when occupying troops leave than not!
Cernig then rounds up the reactions and the collective analysis and discovers the answers depend largely on where and who you ask.
But wait! It gets much worse than this! As we all know, the fighting varies in intensity throughout the country. Some spots are relatively calm, so of course perceptions of violence there are much less. Other places? Not so much peace. In Kirkuk, for example, ORB's study says that 83% believe Iraq is in or is close to a state of civil war! Over half do in Baghdad. 68% do in the North as a whole. (The Kirkuk conflict has gotten far less attention than it deserves by US media -- in part because it is much harder to field reporters there than in Baghdad.)
The Bush loyalists are course crowing madly about the Times' rosy assessment, thoughtfully provided by GOP friendly publisher Ruppert Murdoch, but they would do well to remember that spinning the numbers won't change the sum total of the carnage.

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Blogger Cernig said...

Hi Libby,

Thanks for the link. So far, at least, the major rightwing blogs are making hay with their spin while a couple of progressive B-Listers are the only ones trying to point out just how badly that spin is warping the figures.

I wonder if the progressive A-Listers will give the Right a free field on this to say "Look, the Dems are wrong on Iraq" at a crucial time in the national debate?

Regards, C

2:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I've done a complete breakdown on this survey here.

The Time's statement that “most Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein” is highly misleading, as they are basing this claim on a question which asks people whether they prefer the previous political system or the current one, and not one which specifically asks whether they believe life is better.

There are also many things the poll finds that the Times aren't reporting on:

Amongst other things, the poll says:

- 26% of those surveyed nationwide said they’d had a family member or relative killed within the past three years. These numbers are even higher outside of Kurdish territory, where only 5% report losing a family member.

- Less than 1/3rd of Iraqis believe that the recent U.S. surge was intended to increase security in Iraq. More Iraqis believe the actual goal is to depose the existing government, establish U.S. control of Iraq, attack Iraq’s neighbors, or to kill and destroy Iraqis.

- 53% of Iraqis believe that the security situation will improve in Iraq once Coalition forces withdraw, as compared to only 32% who disagree. The percentage of Iraqis who think a Coalition withdrawl would be beneficial increases very significantly if you disregard the Kurdish region of Iraq, where only 15% of the population think that security would improve without Coalition forces.

- Only 15% of Kurds approve of the current governmental system. Most want an independent government. Shi’a, however, overwhelmingly support a strong, central government that imposes its will over the rest of the country. This could lead to significant conflicts in the future.

Among those with a clear preference, the Sunni in Iraq prefered the political system under Saddam by a nearly 2-1 margin. Over 26% of Iraq's Shi’a believe that the current political system in Iraq is just as bad or worse than the political system under Saddam.

- Approximately 60% of respondents considered themselves unemployed. Those percentages are even higher if you disregard the Kurdish region, where only about 50% were unemployed. These unemployment figures are approximately the same as was seen in the months following the invasion — they have not improved noticeably in years.

Lastly, although the survey polled residents in "every one of the eighteen governorates within Iraq", the choice of places within those governates for their clusters seems skewed. Indeed, it appears that the data gathered in Anbar province, for example, was gathered in the far west of Iraq near Ar Rutbah, with no data from cities such as Fallujah, Ramadi, or Samarra. Much of the Sunni triangle is simply overlooked, even in situations such as Fallujah where there is a strong U.S. pacification presence allowing for surveys.

Similar issues could be raised with their Baghdad surveying. Did they go into Sadr City? I suspect not.

So, while the poll tries to represent Iraq, there are a lot of questions as to whether it is representative of the true opinions of Iraqis.

2:39:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Hey Cernig. Thank you for doing the heavy lifting with your post. It would take me forever to try to crunch those numbers and you never fail to impress me with your analytic skills.

As for why the A-listers are letting it ride, I've had major connectivity issues here today and haven't been able to check out the buzz. But I'm not that surprised that they're ignoring it on a Sunday. Maybe they'll take it up if the righties manage to generate some steam with it.

Mark- thanks for the added analysis. I thank my lucky stars for those who can do the math so I don't have to.

3:40:00 PM  

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