The National Media Center is a government-sponsored group that recently conducted a public opinion poll of Iraqis on the upcoming provincial elections due at the end of January. It questioned 4,500 people. 73% said they intended on voting. Of those, 30% said they would do so out of national duty, 20% said because they supported a candidate, while 19% said they would cast a ballot to improve the provincial governments. 42% said they would vote for secularists, 31% said they supported religious groups, and 27% were undecided. Karbala had the most affirmatives for voting with 85%, while Najaf had the lowest at 54%.
The National Media Center’s findings were much better regarding turnout than a survey conducted by Al-Sabah newspaper in early January. They found that only 43% of those asked planned on voting in January. 32.2% said they would not vote at all. Most of those said they didn’t believe in Iraq’s politicians anymore. Of the 43% that wanted to cast ballots, 62% said they would vote for independents and democratic candidates, while 24% gave no answer.
Back in October 2008 the Iraqi Al Amal Association and the University of Baghdad conducted a survey on poverty in Iraq of 11,198 families in 10 provinces, which asked a few questions about the election. 26.3% responded that they would support independents, 23.7% said they were behind democratic-secular blocs, and 22.7% backed religious parties. 7.3% said they would vote for tribal figures, and 6.3% mentioned national blocs. By province, religious parties were strongest in Qadisiyah with 57.6%, national blocs got the most support in Tamim, 48.5%, democratic-secular parties ranked high in Sulaymaniya, 38.4%, and independents did the best in Basra, 70.2%.
The three surveys show that religious parties have dropped in popularity, while independents and secular groups have increased. Since the upcoming vote is provincial, these national polls can only show so much. The Iraqi Al Amal Association and the University of Baghdad poll was the most thorough because it broke down its finding across each province, and had the most respondents. They found religious parties were still going strong in Qadisiyah, Najaf and Salahaddin, democratic-secularists did well in Salahaddin, Anbar, Diyala, and Sulaymaniya, and independents got the highest marks in Basra, Diyala, and Baghdad. Exactly which parties represent which categories in the polls is unclear. Maliki for example, heads a religious group, the Dawa Party, but has been running on nationalist credentials. The Sadrists are a nationalist and religious organization as well. The fact that the election rules favor larger parties, who already have the most organization, money, and media outlets, is another issue that will shape the results, which the polls do not address. In a week and a half all of this will be resolved when the election actually happens in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Alsumaria, “Poll: Iraqis prefer secular candidates,” 1/20/09
Middle East Online, “Poll: Iraqi Voters Prefer Secular Candidates,” 1/20/09
Al-Sabah, “43 Percent Participate in the Elections,” 1/4/09
Sachet, Khalid Hantoush, “Results of the Field Survey For Needs and Opinions of The Poor in Iraq,” Iraqi Al Amal Association, University of Baghdad, September 2008