Global Policy Forum

Global Poll: Majority Wants

World Public Opinion
September 6, 2007

A majority of citizens across the world (67%) think US-led forces should leave Iraq within a year, according to a BBC World Service poll of 23,000 people across 22 countries. Just one in four (23%) think foreign troops should remain in Iraq until security improves. However, half of those polled (49%) believe the United States plans to keep permanent military bases in Iraq. Another 36 percent believe the US will withdraw all forces once Iraq is stabilized.

Three in five Americans (61%) think US forces should get out of Iraq within a year, including 24 percent who favor immediate withdrawal and 37 percent who prefer a one year timetable. Another 32 percent of Americans say the forces should stay until security improves. Other members of the US-led coalition also have majorities wanting forces out within a year: 65 percent of Britons, 63 percent of South Koreans and 63 percent of Australians. Three countries - Kenya, the Philippines and India - do not have majorities favoring withdrawal within a year, but in no case does a majority favor remaining until security improves. In Kenya and the Philippines 45 percent and 44 percent respectively, favor remaining and in India just 17 percent favor this option.

The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between May 29 and July 26, 2007. GlobeScan President Doug Miller said, "The weight of global public opinion, and indeed American opinion, is opposed to the Bush Administration's current policy of letting security conditions in Iraq dictate the timing of US troop withdrawal." Steven Kull, director of PIPA, pointed out, "While majorities in 19 of 22 countries polled want the US to be out of Iraq within a year, few think the US will do so." Kull added, "It seems the US is widely viewed as planning to make Iraq part of its long term military footprint in the Middle East."

Detailed Findings

Comparing the current results with those from a BBC World Service poll released in February 2006, there appears to be growing support for a definite end to foreign deployments in Iraq. While question wording differed, support for troops remaining until security improves has dropped sharply overall, and is today half what it was in early 2006 across Western European and North American countries surveyed, including the US.

Today, majorities in 19 of the 22 countries surveyed think troops should be out of Iraq within a year. This view is endorsed by an average of 67 percent, including 39 percent who want the troops out immediately and 28 percent who think they should be withdrawn gradually according to a one-year timetable. Muslim countries are among those most eager for the US-led forces to withdraw from Iraq immediately: Indonesia (65%), Turkey (64%), and Egypt (58%). But Latin Americans-Mexico (68%) and Brazil (54%)-also favor immediate withdrawal. Nearly half of those polled in Chile believe foreign troops should leave Iraq now (44%) and an additional 28 percent say they should go within a year.

Although Western Europeans have been particularly critical of US foreign policy, only minorities favor immediate withdrawal in France (34%), Germany (33%), Great Britain (27%), and Italy (28%). Spain is a bit more eager to see the troops leave as soon as possible, with 47 percent favoring immediate withdrawal. Nonetheless, most Europeans want the coalition to commit to a timetable for withdrawing. Combining those who want withdrawal within a year with those who want it immediately, large majorities in all European countries surveyed think foreign troops should leave Iraq in the near term: France (75%), Germany (72%), Italy (72%), Spain (68%), and Great Britain (65%). Canadians are similar to Europeans with 67 percent favoring withdrawal within a year and only 23 percent believing troops should remain until the security situation has improved. The poll also reveals a widespread belief across the world that the US plans to have permanent bases in Iraq - this being the dominant view in 14 of the 22 countries polled. An overall average of one in two respondents (49%) believes the US plans to have permanent bases in Iraq, while 36 percent assume that the United States will withdraw all troops once Iraq is stabilized. Americans are divided on the question, with 42 percent saying the US plans to keep permanent bases in Iraq and 43 percent saying it plans to remove all of its forces. Mexico has the largest majority (75%) believing that the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in Iraq. Also, nearly three out of four in Italy (73%) share this view as do more than two-thirds in Egypt (68%) and Turkey (64%). Just five countries tend to believe the United States plans to remove all troops from Iraq once it is stabilized. Curiously, the country most convinced that the United States plans to remove its military forces is China (57%), followed by Great Britain (56%) and Kenya (54%). Australians (50%), Nigerians (48%), and Canadians (46%) lean in this direction as well.

In total 23,193 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between May 29 and July 26, 2007. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In eight of the 22 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 3.5 percent.

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