Iraq: Media Manufactured Perception

The experts on how things are going in Iraq are not former State Department officials, former CIA officials who may never have set foot in the country.

The experts are not Senators who have taken junkets or the various other bloviators who populate the green rooms of cable news outlets.

They are the Iraqis themselves.

In a recent poll, more Iraqis, who live in Iraq, say Iraq is headed the right direction than Americans who merely watch TV reports about Iraq or read newspaper reports about Iraq.

Amid the drumbeat of so-called sectarian violence from the Legacy Media, one would think that Iraqis would be to throw in the towel or at least throwdown with each other at a moments notice.

But that is not the case.

Eighty-nine percent of Iraqis think a unity government is important.

Fifty-four percent approve of the unity government with only 25% disapproving.  (That is higher than Americans who approve of the current make up of Congress and the Administration.)

Seventy-eight percent of Iraqis oppose partitioning the country along ethnic or religious lines.

The only group supporting partitioning are the Kurds.

And 70% of Iraqis do not know someone who moved because of religious conflict.

So, American watching the Legacy Media report on Iraq think the situation is much worse than the average Iraqi who actually lives in Iraq.

This is the effect of tens or thousands of gross ratings points showing only violence and pessimistic opinions.

But here is where we see the media effect come into play–even in Iraq.

Nationallly, 75% of Iraqis say the security situation in the country is poor.

But, when asked about the security of their own neighborhoods, 60% give the security in their town or neighborhood a passing grade.

This shows the power of the media to conflate a perception–even among those closest too it.

Oh, and 59% of Iraqis watch more than two hours of TV a day.

26 Responses to “Iraq: Media Manufactured Perception”

  1. aaron Says:

    Excuse me…did you actually look at the poll? I went to it and the very first graph and it says that 52% of Iraqis think the country is headed in the WRONG direction!
    Oh now I see your point…it’s that more Iraqis think Iraq is headed in the right direction than Americans do…but that is a nice piece of misdirection. The fact is that a majority of those people actually living through that hell are saying they are going in the wrong direction! So it seems that we may be ahead of the curve. And look at the trend lines….a huge shift…I wonder if it has to do with over 100 Iraqis dying each day? Too bad the morons in charge never had enough troops to actually bring security to Iraq.

  2. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    aaron – I read 35%, not 52%. Graph after graph is moderately encoouraging. And the trend lines for 6 months, one year, five years are the opposite of what you claim. Misdirection…hmmm.

    “Ahead of the curve…” Yeah, that makes sense. The people reading newspapers with none of their friends dying are much more likely to be right up on this. Can’t trust the people who actually live there.

    You wouldn’t by any chance be a member of the reality-based community, would you?

  3. JAF Says:

    Not sure where you got the 52%. I looked at the graph you talked about and saw this:
    41% — getting better
    35% — getting worse
    19% — No answer
    5% — Don’t know.

  4. lpdbw Says:

    Ahead of the curve?

    Did you happen to notice the velocity in the poll? The question about the direction the country is going has increased 11 raw points (over 33%) in a favorable direction since March.

    So “ahead of the curve” would mean we are more optimistic than them, not less.

    But that wouldn’t match your playbook, would it?

  5. brainy435 Says:

    aaron, perhaps you should slap whoever dropped the ball regarding your education in the area of reading comprehension. 59% did in fact say the country was headed in thw wrong direction. However, 63 % of THE SAME PEOPLE said Iraq would be better or the same in 6 months, 68% said it would be the same or better in a year and 68% again said it would be the same or better in 5 years…with the number of those saying Iraq would be “better” or “much better” off rising the farther out the survey looked. Kinda hard for that to happen if your country’s moving in the wrong direction, no? I think the 59% answer seems to prove the authors point that: “This shows the power of the media to conflate a perception–even among those closest too[sic] it.”

  6. brainy435 Says:

    Actually, aaron, you and I were both wrong: It was 52% who said the country was moving int he wrong direction. Sorry for the error.

  7. brainy435 Says:

    Damn. I have to correct my correction. I was the only idiot finding a 59% total for this catagory.

    And the 52% figure is plain as day on the 5th slide, second column of the graph.

  8. Sabrina Says:

    The website that lists the polls makes for the confusion I believe, because initially I came to the same conculusion as aaron.

    Make sure you are looking at the most recent poll, which is from June14 – 24.

    If, like me, you clicked on the “Past Polls” first link, then the March poll will come up and the page changes to show that the March poll is the most recent so the June poll then doesn’t even show.

    The March poll shows the 52% disapproval – the June poll shows the 41% in the right direction, 35% disapproval.

  9. aaron Says:

    correction I was looking at the wrong time frame. I was looking at the March poll. I hope this is good news for Iraq.

  10. Cranch Says:

    aaron and “brainy”:

    Try looking at the June poll, not the March one.

  11. TallDave Says:

    I also posted on this poll, back when it was first listed in the Iraq Index.

    What really struck me about the poll is that Iraqis are not only more optimistic than Americans about Iraq’s future, they are more optimistic about Iraq’s future than Americans are about America’s future

  12. TallDave Says:

    I also posted on this poll, back when it was first listed in the Iraq Index.

    What really struck me about the poll is that Iraqis are not only more optimistic than Americans about Iraq’s future, they are more optimistic about Iraq’s future than Americans are about AMERICA’S future: the right-track/wrong-track numbers are negative here.

  13. CBKiteflyer Says:


    I think you are looking at the wrong poll. Make sure you click on the current poll (June), not the previous poll (March) where the 52% figure appeared. The current stat for those who think the country is going in the wrong direction is 35%.

  14. biff Says:

    So the presidential approval ratings are better than they are in the U.S., the “right direction/wrong direction” is better than in the US (you know, a country not in a “civil war”).

    As far as I can tell, this poll looks like it was taken in any other in a stable democratic nation, except we’re told Iraq is a constant madhouse, every square inch of it, judging by media accounts.

    To those who doubt the impact of media violence answer these two questions honestly:

    1) are there any positive stories in all of Iraq (a storeshop owner starting a buisness, families reunited, the marshes of the marsh Arabs being re irrigated?);

    2) have you heard a single such story on the evening news in the last two years, or have you only seen newsclips of the latest violence?

  15. Darrell Says:

    These polls clearly show that, over the last 2+ years, the predominant sentiment among Iraqis has been that things are going in the right direction. The two points where this was not the case are largely due to temporary flare-ups in sectarian violence. Obviously, the negative number in March 2006 resulted from the mosque bombing and the unsurge in Sunni/Shiite feuding that followed that event. Since things have calmed down recently, it is not surprising that the polling has headed back to a more positive outlook. Americans who continue to paint a gloom and doom picture in Iraq are doing so to further their own political views and agendas. I trust the people who actually live there. Most Americans would be smart to do the same.

  16. willis Says:

    AAron, the temptation to use overwhelming force to end the violence is a strong one and an obvious solution. Our objective in Iraq is not only to suppress the violence but to develop a country that can function on its own. We yielded to that temptation in Viet Nam and it produced the same short-term results you so rightly crave. The year I spent there was relatively quiet and danger free, as we had pretty much destroyed the VC and held the NVA at bay. However, no real government or military ever formed as we did all the heavy lifting for them. When we began our turn-over to them, the violence came back and we simply gave up and quit. As agonizing as it is to watch the daily violence and chaos in Iraq, you are seeing the genuine birth of a nation.

  17. Phil Says:

    Timing is critical in polling, isn’t it?

    And one question gives away the timing of this particular poll:

    “Do you believe that the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi will lead to an improvement in the security situation in Iraq?”

    The poll was taken 1-3 weeks after Al-Zarqawi’s death – and that question elicited a 48% YES response.

    There’s no reason to imagine that a summer of INCREASED sectarian violence and a huge INCREASE in the daily Iraqi body count would have dampened that optimism by now, is there?

    Remember that the Iraqi people have a lot more reason to try to be optimistic after any bit of encouraging news than CIA analysts do … they have to live there, and they have to have a reason to wake up every morning. Too much pessimism and they might just start strapping bombs on themselves or their cars and driving right into the middle of a marketplace or US checkpoint or something.

  18. Thinkyouarewrong Says:

    Phil – the march poll was taken right after the Samaria Shrine was detonated – no chance of that skewing the results is there?

    Besides, current casualty rates are running about 2/3 of what they were in July. The Lebanon war probably encouraged sympathetic violence.

    Three months from now the poll will show similar improvement..

  19. Flying Rodent Says:

    Thank God for this poll. Otherwise, I might have had to rely on the evidence provided by my own two eyes.

  20. RL Says:

    Flying Rodent,

    You’ve got amazing eyesight to see Iraq from where you are!

  21. Flying Rodent Says:

    If I lived in America, rather than one day’s train journey from Iraq, I’d be a whole lot more compacent.

  22. Flying Rodent Says:

    That’s meant to be “complacent”, I’ll feel like less of a dickhead if you know that.

  23. brainy435 Says:

    I see it now, thanks. I stopped reading when it said the March poll was the last one. I assumed they were still compiling results from the last quarter.

  24. Brutally Honest Says:

    Iraqi poll tells the story……

    …. not being told by the world’s press:The experts on how things are going in Iraq are not former State Department officials, former CIA officials who may never have set foot in the country. The experts are not Senators who…

  25. thecenterpath Says:

    Has anyone looked at the tracking of “issues.”

    Although this poll has a 41% “right direction,” that is hardly a majority, but the most telling story is the tracking of the issues…

    They get worse. “Right direction” is so relative and half of them may support sectarian violence for all we know. The issues till the story as far as the mood of the people. How much blue/ green (better) increases compared to red/ orange (worse) increases over time. It is clear that the iraqis view the situation as getting worse for their everyday lives. The lone exception may be wages which has stayed the same.

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