In Iraq, citizens feel that their lives have been "torn apart" -- due to street violence and a sputtering economy. Half believe that the country is either in a state of civil war or close to it.
In the US, half of Americans in the "50 and over" age group now oppose the war, contrasted with only 15 percent four years ago. Four years ago, almost three-quarters of Americans supported the invasion; today only a third do.
President Bush continues to insist that the war "can be won" and that any troop withdrawal would be "devastating" to US security. Most Iraqis, however, believe their domestic violence will "get better" after withdrawal. (pdf, Table 2).
A British market research firm, Opinion Research Business, conducted a face-to-face poll of 5,000+ Iraqis in February. In addition to finding overwhelming support (53 percent to 26 percent) for foreign troop withdrawal, the firm found that 27 percent of Iraqis believe that the country is "in a state of civil war" and 22 percent believe that it is "close" to civil war; 14 percent did not answer. Nevertheless, half say that they prefer the current regime to that of Saddam Hussein.
The respondents were primarily unemployed (59 percent to 40 percent). On the question of religion, 61 percent self-identified as "Muslim" -- 24 percent as "Shia Muslim" -- and 14 percent as "Sunni Muslim." When asked specifically about doctrine, most who answered said "Sunni" (46 percent).
Of the respondents, almost 40 percent had none or only primary education. Another 40 percent had "intermediate" or "secondary" education. Only 20 percent had "higher" education.
Most Iraqis (64 percent) want a centralized government and a united country. And almost half (45 percent) think that the current plan to disarm militias will work -- although 33 percent did not answer and 22 percent think it won't work.
About half (49 percent) believe that their lives are better under the current government. One quarter (26 percent) preferred the prior regime; 16 percent say both are "equally bad;" and 9 percent did not answer.
Although some are portraying this finding as surprising -- it's not, really. Life outside of Baghdad has improved in many places, measured by things like power, water, access to foreign goods. It's not unlike saying that if you put one hand in a pot of ice-cold water and the other in a pot of almost-boiling water ... that "on average" your hands are happy.
Looking at the attitude by region and by religion illustrates this point. Most people in the south think things are better (although even this region has a range of 49-90 percent). And in the mid-Shia region, the nod also goes to the current government (range 13-90 percent). In the central region, most think things are better now, and there is the most consensus of any region (range 61-72%).
However, most people in the north think things were better under Saddam (range of 1-96 percent -- drop the two extremes and the range is 57-73 percent -- overwhelming support for the prior government).
The difference in attitude is also clearly reflected in religious orientation. Half of the Sunnis (51 percent) think life was better under Saddam. (This, too, is a "doh" as Saddam's was a Sunni government.)
Two-thirds (66 percent) of the Shias think life is better under the current government. More of the Shias (20 percent) are likely to think that either regime is "just as bad" as the other than the Sunnis. Yet Shias (34 percent) were more likely to have experienced the murder of a family member in the last three years than Sunnis (15 percent).
If a family member had left the country because of the state of security in the country, the respondent was more likely to support Saddam Hussein than the current government.
Both countries -- Iraq and the United States -- remain very divided.