WASHINGTON – More than two-thirds of Baghdad (search) residents would like to see U.S. troops stay longer than a few more months, but many of those Iraqis still have sharply mixed feelings about the troops, a poll says.
The Gallup poll (search) found that 71 percent of the capital city's residents felt U.S. troops should not leave in the next few months. Just 26 percent felt the troops should leave that soon.
However, a sizable minority felt there were circumstances in which attacks against those troops could be justified. Almost one in five, 19 percent, said attacks could be justified, and an additional 17 percent said they could be in some situations.
These mixed feelings from Baghdad residents come at a time when many in the United States are calling for the troops to be brought home soon.
When Gallup set out recently to poll residents of Baghdad on their feelings about the war, U.S. troops and the future of their country, the biggest surprise may have been public reaction to the questioners. The response rate was close to 97 percent, with some people following questioners around the streets begging for a chance to give their opinions, said Richard Burkholder, director of international polling for the organization.
Almost six in 10 in the poll, 58 percent, said that U.S. troops in Baghdad have behaved fairly well or very well, with one in 10 saying "very well." Twenty 20 percent said the troops have behaved fairly badly and 9 percent said very badly.
Gallup, one of the nation's best-known polling operations, hired more than 40 questioners, most of them Iraqi citizens directed by survey managers who have helped with other Gallup polling in the Muslim world. Respondents were told the poll was being done for the media both in Iraq and outside their country, but no mention was made that the American polling firm was running it.
To conduct the poll, Gallup did interviews face-to-face in people's homes chosen at random from all geographic sectors of the city.
"This is the way we did polling in the United States before telephone ownership got to the point that we could do reliable phone surveys," Burkholder said in an interview with The Associated Press. The poll of 1,178 adults was taken between Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Burkholder said Gallup plans to do further polling in Baghdad in the coming months and hopes to expand throughout Iraq in the future. Gallup plans to release much of the data through its subscription service -- the Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing (search).
Gallup started its operation in Baghdad because it felt Baghdad would have the lowest security risks after the war, but that hasn't turned out to be the case, Burkholder said. Six in 10 Baghdad residents said that within the past four weeks they had been afraid at times to go outside their homes during the day.