Attitudes Towards Democracy

Edited by Ali Latif
March 2005

Considerations for the Future

What can be concluded from the preliminary findings of this poll is that there exists broad support for democracy to establish itself in Iraq, and furthermore there is strong expectation and a desire for its consolidation within the next few years. However these results have also highlighted the lack of in-depth understanding of the term democracy on the part of students. There is poor recognition of what are considered essential components of democracy as well as a perception that democratic characteristics, such as the existence of multiple opinions or political trends within a society, are synonymous with a country's instability.

There were differences noted between the regions included in the survey with higher percentages of respondents agreeing with the superiority of democracy the more south you went. Attitudes relating towards the relationship of religion and state also differed with more students favoring a secular state in Basra and Baghdad than in Mosul. This may reflect a slight difference between Sunni and Shi'i attitudes.

It seems as though the majority of students are quite happy to support the idea of democracy taking root in the country and furthermore they expect this to take place in the near future. However, when it comes to awareness of what democratization entails, there is significantly less understanding.

The enthusiasm for democracy that this poll has demonstrated must be seized upon to develop a more in-depth understanding amongst young Iraqis. There is a clear need for programs that serve to inform and educate young Iraqis about the essential components of democracy and the steps needed to be taken to construct a viable democratic state and civil society. A deeper understanding amongst young Iraqis will extend the roots of democracy and strengthen the country's commitment and resolve to see this through in the face of the continuing hardships.

While parts of this poll might paint a somewhat grim picture for the establishment and consolidation of democracy in Iraq, one has to bear in mind that these young students have never experienced genuine democracy or a pluralistic civil society. The real desire and expectation for democracy to work in this country, seen in the survey, demonstrates that Iraq is fertile for successful democratization. However, without sustained efforts to build-up civil society and serious work to develop people's understanding of democracy and democratic values, especially amongst young Iraqi men and women whom Iraq's democratic hopes rest on, then democratization will fail.

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