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Poll Finds Iraqis Overwhelmingly Favor Elections

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 19, 2005 – As coalition and Iraqi forces continue to kill and capture insurgents bent on disrupting or preventing Iraq's national assembly election, a new poll shows Iraqis overwhelmingly believe it's important for them to cast their ballots Jan. 30.

According to a public opinion survey in Iraq taken in early January, more than 90 percent of Iraqis believe it is important to vote in the election. A total of 82.9 percent said it was "very important," and 9.4 percent said it was "somewhat important."

The breakdown along religious lines shows 70.1 percent of Sunnis listing very important and 15.9 percent listing somewhat. A total of 86 percent of Sunnis, therefore, believe the election is important to the future of Iraq.

Sunnis make up about 20 percent of Iraq's population. They were the dominant group under the former regime. Some Sunni groups have called for Sunnis to boycott the election, but this poll seems to show that the calls are not effective.

In Shiia communities the largest in Iraq, with about 60 percent of the population 91.1 percent believe the election is very important and 5.5 percent say it is somewhat important. Shiia leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani has called on all Shiia to vote in the election. He has a slogan, "Vote or Die" that has struck a chord with the Shiia population.

The survey contacted almost 2,000 Iraqis from all parts of the country. An Iraqi company conducted the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus three points.

On the all-important question of whether they will vote or not in the election, 87 percent said they were very likely or somewhat likely to vote on Jan. 30. Along religious lines, almost 80 percent of Sunnis said they were likely to vote, and more than 90 percent of Shiias said they would go to the polls. Roughly 10 percent of the sample said they would not vote, and the rest didn't know.

The survey showed that 63.6 percent of Iraqis believe there will be free and fair elections in the country, with 17.8 percent responding they do not believe the elections will be free and fair. The rest listed don't know or not applicable. Overall, more women said they believe the elections would be free and fair than men 65.1 percent to 62 percent.

Along religious lines, just over half 50.5 percent of Iraqis who list themselves as Sunni Muslim believe the elections will be free and fair, with 29.1 percent disagreeing. Among Shiias, 72.1 percent believe the elections will be free and fair, with 11.2 percent disagreeing.

Other interesting facets of the survey show that almost three quarters of Iraqis have at least some confidence in Iraq's interim government. A third of the people have some confidence, 29.5 percent have a lot of confidence and 10.8 percent have a little confidence. Only 15.8 percent have no confidence in the interim government.

Overall, more than 54.1 percent of Iraqis said they believe the country is headed in the right direction, with 28.1 percent saying the opposite. The Sunnis are almost evenly divided, with 42.6 percent 41.3 percent, respectively. Among Shiia Iraqis, the percentages are 61.1 and 21 percent.

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