Economic Negativity Abounds in Iraq

by Nicole Naurath

New low of 16% of Iraqis say economic conditions are getting better

ABU DHABI -- Iraqis' dissatisfaction with economic conditions in their country is the highest it has been in three years, highlighting the challenges the government faces as the U.S. plans to withdraw its troops. The percentage of Iraqis who say the country's overall economy is getting worse rose 17 percentage points in the past year, jumping to 37% in 2011 from 20% in early 2010.

Economic conditions getting worse

These results are based on the latest Abu Dhabi Gallup Center brief, "Economic Negativity Abounds in Iraq," which explores Iraqis' growing pessimism about the direction in which their economy is moving, their concerns about providing for their families and the availability of jobs, and their general lack of confidence in governmental institutions.

Iraqis' discontent with the economic conditions in the cities and areas where they live spiked as well in the past year. Thirty percent of Iraqis now say their local economies are getting worse, double the percentage who said that in early 2010. This may reflect Iraqis' increasing pessimism about their local job market. Nearly two-thirds of Iraqis (65%) say it is a bad time to find a job in the city or area where they live, up from 41% in early 2010.

2011 highest level of pessimism about jobs situation in Iraq

Sixteen percent of Iraqis -- less than half the level at about the same time one year ago -- say now is a good time to find a job locally.

More Iraqis Struggling to Afford Housing and Get by on Present Incomes

Gallup survey results hint at the devastation that eight years of war have visited on Iraq and its people's psyche. In a Gallup survey conducted in 2004 -- nearly a year after forces from the U.S., the U.K., and other countries invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime -- almost half of Iraqis (46%) said they thought the coalition invasion had done more harm than good. A much smaller percentage (33%) said it had done more good than harm. With major parts of the country's infrastructure destroyed and a substantial portion of Iraq's 30 million citizens living in poverty, those early fears seem to have been borne out.

Fifty-three percent of urban Iraqis now live in slum conditions, according to the United Nations, versus 17% in 2000 before the Iraq war began. The percentage of Iraqis who say they did not have enough money at times to pay for shelter jumped to 36% from 21% in late 2010.

More lack money for shelter

More than half of all Iraqis now say they are dissatisfied with their standard of living, and more Iraqis see their standard of living getting worse than getting better -- the first time this has been the case since Gallup started asking the question three years ago.

Standard of living getting worse

As another sign of Iraqis' rising discontent with economic conditions, the number of residents who say it is "difficult" or "very difficult" to get by on their present income has risen to 65% from 39% in early 2010.


The deepening pessimism comes at a time when Iraqis are seeing change all around them. First, there is the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops, which may complicate reconstruction efforts and plans to secure foreign investment if sectarian violence resurges after the military's departure. There are also the protests and the incipient revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world, which may be causing some Iraqis to take stock of how much control they feel they have over their own lives. Gallup has routinely asked Iraqis whether they are satisfied with their freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2011, 25% of Iraqis say they are satisfied, the lowest percentage yet recorded and down from 40% in late 2010.

These data, along with Iraqis' increasing pessimism about their national and personal economic situations reinforce how vital it is for the government to create jobs. Some of the mechanisms for this are already in place, with a 100,000-home residential construction project being led by a Korean company and talk of building a high-speed railway to connect Baghdad to Iraq's southern provinces. These and other projects will need to be financed, safeguarded, and managed in ways that will put Iraqis to work, and give them reason to hope.

Read more about Iraq's challenges in the in-depth report from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

About the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center

Building on Gallup's seminal work in the field of Muslim studies, the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center offers unmatched research on the attitudes and aspirations of Muslims around the world. Learn more.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews in Iraq with 9,435 adults from 2004 through 2011. Surveys were conducted March 22-April 9, 2004; March 5-April 1, 2008; Feb. 20-March 12, 2009; Aug. 10-20, 2009; Feb. 17-27, 2010; Sept. 2-Oct. 8, 2010; and Feb. 21-March 3, 2011. Interviews were conducted with respondents aged 18 and older in 2004 and respondents aged 15 and older from 2008 forward.

For results based on the total sample of adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 to ±3.7 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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