What Americans Really Think about the Iraqi Election

In the wake of the Iraqi election, Americans are more optimistic about the situation there. But they remain skeptical about seeding democracy in the region.

A Feb. 8-9 Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll asked whether it was more likely that Iraq would be a democracy five years from now, or more likely that the country would have some form of dictatorship. The survey found that 56 percent of respondents believed it would be a democracy, while 28 percent thought it would have a dictatorship.

That's a jump from June 2004, when Americans weren't so optimistic. Just 34 percent thought it would be a democracy in five years, while 47 percent said it would have some form of dictatorship.

In the new poll, 46 percent of those surveyed said the elections justified the U.S. involvement of the past two years. A slightly smaller number, 44 percent, said they did not.

In the meantime, a mid-February Pew Research Center poll also reported more optimism. The Pew poll found that 47 percent said the elections will make Iraq more stable; that's up from 29 percent in January. Another 40 percent said they expect little change.

As for broader democratization in the region, however, most Americans harbor doubts. The survey found that 36 percent said that other countries in the Middle East are likely to become more democratic now that Iraq had held its first free election. But 52 percent said they would not.

Model Nations. Just before the Iraqi election, Zogby International and Abu Dhabi TV polled 805 Iraqi adults. When asked which country they would like to see their country emulate, the most common response was the United Arab Emirates, cited by 37 percent of those surveyed. Among 18 to 24 year olds, however, the United States was the model (mentioned by a third of those surveyed) followed by the UAE (30 percent).

In another question, 59 percent of Iraqis told pollsters that they favored a secular government, including 68 percent of 18 to 24 year olds.

Car Talk: Lovin' That Commute. An ABC News/Time/Washington Post poll in late January found that 60 percent of respondents liked their commutes. Although people with shorter daily commutes reported higher satisfaction, 42 percent of those with a commute of more than 30 minutes a day and 47 percent of city dwellers said they liked their commutes.

Why do people like them? The top responses: a quiet or relaxing time or the break it provides.

The average commute was 26 minutes. On average, people said they spend an average of 87 minutes a day in their car for all purposes.

Confirming the picture we've seen in recent Censuses, many more households have three or more vehicles, at 26 percent, than have none, at 4 percent.

Thumbs Down on Earmarked Gas Taxes. In the new ABC/Time/Post poll, 32 percent of respondents said they supported a higher gasoline tax that was earmarked for "transportation projects such as building roads, traffic management, or public transportation." A majority of 65 percent were opposed.

When asked in a follow-up question how much more per gallon they would be willing to pay in gas taxes to fund transportation projects, 52 percent said nothing. At the other end of the spectrum, 20 percent said they would pay more than 5 cents per gallon.

Liberal and Conservative Causes. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in Harris' mid-January poll said they thought of conservatives as people who supported moral values; 70 percent, as people who supported cutting taxes; 40 percent as supporters of gun control; 26 percent as supporters of affirmative action; 13 percent as supporters of abortion rights; 8 percent as backers of gay rights, and, separately, same-sex marriage.

So what causes are liberals identified with? The survey found that 84 percent said liberals supported abortion rights; 82 percent said liberals supported gay rights; 78 percent said liberals supported same-sex marriage; 74 percent said liberals supported affirmative action; 63 percent said liberals supported gun control; 54 percent said liberals supported moral values; and 39 percent said liberals supported cutting taxes.

Hollywood's Liberalism. How out of touch is Hollywood? A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll in early February found that 72 percent of those surveyed said the movie capital of the world was out of touch with the lives of most Americans. Among Democrats, 61 percent said that was the case, while 85 percent of Republicans agreed.

In the meantime, 61 percent thought that most people in Hollywood were liberals; 48 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans gave that response. A mere 8 percent thought most people there were conservatives.

Growing Up to Be President. In a Feb. 7-10 Gallup poll, 40 percent of respondents said that if they had a son or daughter, they would want to see that child grow up to be president. By contrast, 57 percent said they would not.

The question produced a gender chasm. Fifty-two percent of men - but only 29 percent of women - would want a child of theirs to become president.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at AEI.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.
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    Email: kbowman@aei.org
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