WASHINGTON – Overwhelming numbers of Iraqis say the U.S. troop buildup has worsened security and the prospects for economic and political progress in their country, according to a poll released Monday that provides a strikingly bleak appraisal of the war.
Forty-seven percent want American forces and their coalition allies to leave the country immediately, the survey showed, 12 percent more than said so in a March poll as the troop increase was beginning. And 57 percent — including nearly all Sunnis and half of Shiites — said they consider attacks on coalition forces acceptable, a slight increase over the past half year.
The poll, conducted by ABC News, Britain's BBC, and Japan's public broadcaster NHK, was released at the start of a critical week in the fight by Democrats trying to force President Bush to begin a withdrawal.
Seventy percent in the survey said they believe security has worsened where the added forces were sent, with another 11 percent saying the buildup has had no effect. Similar numbers said security in other parts of the country has deteriorated and that overall economic and political conditions have declined.
Only a quarter said their own communities have become safer in the past half year. Every person interviewed in Baghdad and Anbar province, a Sunni-dominated area where Bush recently visited and cited progress, said the troop increase has worsened security.
Countrywide, a fourth reported nearby car bombs or suicide attacks in the past six months, with as many or slightly fewer saying they have seen snipers, sectarian fighting, kidnappings and unnecessary violence by coalition forces against citizens.
Just 39 percent said their lives were going well, while only a fifth said they think things in the country are going well. Minorities said they approve of the job being done by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki or have confidence in U.S. and British forces.
Despite their pessimistic views of their lives, virtually all said that separating Iraqis along sectarian lines is bad for the country. Six in 10 said they wanted a unified country ruled by a central government in Baghdad.
Some interviewers conducting the survey reported encountering military operations or suicide attacks, and some were detained by government or militia forces, but all completed their work safely. A handful of interviewing locations had to be changed for security reasons.
The poll was conducted August 17 to 24 and involved face-to-face interviews in Arabic or Kurdish with 2,212 randomly chosen adult Iraqis from across the country. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.