Internal US poll shows Sunnis not likely to vote
The preliminary findings of a new internal US State Department poll on Iraq obtained by AFP shows only 32 percent of Sunni Muslims are "very likely" to vote in landmark national elections this month and only 12 percent consider the event legitimate.
The survey, conducted from December 12-26 by the State Department's Bureau of Research and Intelligence (INR), revealed major concern among Sunnis about the security situation in Iraq, with 88 percent saying the threat of violence would keep them away from voting centres.
A US official said the dismal findings about the Sunnis were "not surprising. It's what we expected."
But the official called the overall results "encouraging" and predicted a high voter turnout. He also said the US government would continue to work to get out the Sunni vote.
The survey, which polled Sunni areas like Baquba and Tikrit as well as mixed cities like Baghdad and Kirkuk and southern Shiite cities, found that only "32 percent of Sunni(s) versus 87 percent of Shiite(s) say it is very likely they will personally vote."
Iraq's Sunnis ruled Iraq for most of its modern history until Saddam Hussein was toppled by the Americans in 2003.
The US and Iraqi government have laboured furiously to ensure Sunnis, who have fueled the country's deadly insurgency, show up at the polls. But the latest results indicated they have not made enough headway.
The State Department survey noted that only 50 percent of Sunnis, compared to 93 percent of the Shiites polled, "say it is very important for Iraqis in their community to personally take part in elections."
Even if Sunnis want to vote, the danger of attacks by insurgents could very well keep them from heading to the voting booth.
"Sixty one percent of Arab Sunnis are very concerned about their family's safety versus 24 percent of Shiites," the poll said.
The poll also found "88 percent of Sunni(s) and 38 percent of Shiite(s) would stay home if there are threats of violence against polling stations."
Asked if they thought the vote would "be completely free and fair" 52 percent of Arab Shiites answered yes, while only 12 percent of Sunnis gave a positive answer. In comparison, 37 percent of Sunnis and just five percent of Shiites said the vote would "not be free and fair."
Meanwhile, most Shiites, who have overwhelmingly backed the election, said they would skip the vote if called to do so by a religious leader they trusted.
"Seventy-six percent of Arab Shiite would comply with a boycott called by a trusted religious figure compared to 32 percent of Arab Sunnis," the poll said.
The poll was conducted in the mixed ethnic cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk; the mainly Sunni cities of Baquba and Tikrit; the Kurdish cities of Arbil and Sulaimaniyah; the mid-Euphrates Shiite cities of Hilla, Najaf, Diwaniyah, Kut and Karbala and the southern Shiite cities of Basra, Nassiriyah, Ammara and Samawa.
The survey skipped the Sunni Muslim cities of Ramadi and Mosul, which have been riven by insurgent violence in recent months.
In an internal State Department survey, released on November 17, entitled "Iraq's Sunnis want to be included in the vote", Ramadi and Mosul were polled.
The finding, from the State Department's intelligence section, did not list the number of people surveyed or its margin of error.
The latest survey also stood in sharp contrast to a poll conducted by the International Republican Institute between November 24 and December 5 that found 71 percent of Iraqis intended to vote in the January 30 elections.
That poll also excluded the cities of Mosul and Ramadi.