Skepticism About U.S. Deep, Iraq Poll Shows
Motive for Invasion Is Focus of Doubts
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2003; Page A18
More than half of Baghdad's residents said they did not believe the United States would allow the Iraqi people to fashion their political future without the direct influence of Washington, according to a Gallup poll.
With the Bush administration holding consultations on the future of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, recent analyses of the poll data, which were gathered three months ago, highlight the roots within that city's populace of many of the concerns the U.S.-led coalition now faces there.
Only 5 percent of those polled said they believed the United States invaded Iraq "to assist the Iraqi people," and only 1 percent believed it was to establish democracy there.
Three-quarters of those polled said they believed the policies and decisions of the Iraqi Governing Council -- whose members were appointed in July by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer -- were "mostly determined by the coalition's own authorities," and only 16 percent thought the council members were "fairly independent."
The poll, funded by Gallup, was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 1,178 Baghdad residents between Aug. 28 and Sept. 4. The initial results were announced in late September, but additional analyses were released to the polling firm's clients in succeeding weeks. Some Gallup analyses have been published on the Coalition Provisional Authority's Web site in the past two days.
Although 52 percent of those polled said they thought the United States was serious about establishing a democratic system of government in Iraq, 51 percent said Washington would not allow Iraqis to do that without U.S. pressure and influence. The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
In an Oct. 28 analysis, Richard Burkholder, Gallup's director of international polling, noted that most Baghdad residents thought getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth the hardships they are enduring. But "most are deeply skeptical of the initial rationale the coalition has given for its actions," Burkholder added.
The poll showed that doubts about the U.S. motives for invading had led to doubts about Washington's commitment to creating an independent democratic government in Baghdad.
Forty-three percent of the respondents said they believed that U.S. and British forces invaded in March primarily "to rob Iraq's oil." While 37 percent believed the United States acted to get rid of the Hussein regime, only 5 percent thought it did so "to assist the Iraq people," the poll found.
An additional 6 percent believed the motive was to "change the Middle East 'map' as the U.S. and Israel want." Four percent believed the purpose was to destroy weapons of mass destruction, the primary reason given by the Bush administration.
At a time when the United States faces a growing security threat, the poll pointed to other possible reasons why coalition forces are being looked upon as occupiers instead of as liberators.
Almost everyone interviewed -- 94 percent -- said Baghdad "now is a more dangerous place than before the invasion," and 86 percent said that for the previous four weeks "they or a member of their household had been afraid to go outside their home at night for safety reasons," Burkholder said in his analysis. He noted that in the two months before the U.S. invasion, only 8 percent said they had experienced a similar fear.
Asked about attacks against U.S. troops, 64 percent said they were not justified; 36 percent said they sometimes were. Burkholder noted that those who believed such attacks were somewhat or completely justified -- 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively -- would translate to 440,000 adults 18 or older among Baghdad's adult population of 2.3 million.
Forty-eight percent of those polled said they did not believe that the United States will "remain in Iraq as long as necessary, but not a day more," as President Bush has said. Thirty-six percent said they believed that the Americans would leave as Bush had promised.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company