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Poll: Iraqis conflicted about war, its impact

Survey done mostly before recent cycle of violence

CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll on how Iraqis feel about the future of their country
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nearly half the Iraqis polled in a survey conducted primarily in March and early April said they believed the U.S.-led war had done more harm than good, but 61 percent of respondents said Saddam Hussein's ouster made it worth any hardships.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll showed conflicted feelings among Iraqis over the war and its impact at the time of the survey.

Most interviews were done between March 22 and April 9 -- before the latest flare-up of violence that brought some of the deadliest fighting since the end of major combat nearly a year ago.

Iraqi interviewers conducted face-to-face surveys with 3,444 adults in Arabic and Kurdish in respondents' homes. The poll covered urban and rural areas throughout Iraq, representing about 93 percent of the population. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Nearly half -- 47 percent -- said they believed attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq could not be justified, while 52 percent said those attacks could be justified some or all of the time.

Thirty-three percent of those polled said the war had done more good than harm, while 46 percent said it had done more harm than good.

Forty-two percent said Iraq was better off because of the war, while 39 percent said it was worse off. Given the sampling error, those figures indicated a dead heat.

On a personal level, Iraqis appeared more optimistic, according to the poll. More than half of those surveyed -- 51 percent -- said they and their families were better off than they were before the invasion, while 25 percent said they were worse off.

Fifty-four percent said conditions for creating peace and stability had worsened in the three months before they were questioned for the poll. Twenty-five percent said conditions improved during that time before the upsurge in violence.

Those polled were virtually united in opposition to attacks against Iraqi police, the survey found. Ninety-two percent said those attacks could not be justified.

But the Iraqis surveyed were split on whether ongoing U.S.-led military action in the country was justified. Fifty-two percent said it was not, while 47 percent said it could be justified.

Asked about when they wanted U.S. and British forces to leave, 57 percent chose immediately, as in the next few months, the poll said; 36 percent said troops should stay longer.

At the time the question was asked, 53 percent said they would feel less safe if the U.S.-led coalition left immediately. About half as many -- 28 percent -- said they would feel more safe. Sixty-nine percent said they or their families would be in danger if they were seen cooperating with the coalition.

The respondents were split in their opinions of L. Paul Bremer, the U.S civilian administrator in Iraq. Forty-two percent said they held a unfavorable opinion, while 31 percent rated him favorably. He proved more popular than President Bush, disliked by more than half the respondents.

Forty-four percent gave Bush a very unfavorable rating and 11 percent somewhat unfavorable; 24 percent said they held a favorable opinion of the U.S. president. But Bush proved more popular than Saddam in the survey, with eight of 10 respondents viewing the ousted Iraqi leader unfavorably at the time the poll was done.

Negative view of U.S. forces
U.S. soldiers man a checkpoint Wednesday in Baghdad.

The poll suggested more than half of Iraqis had a negative impression of U.S. forces in general before the current wave of violence.

Twenty-nine percent said troops had conducted themselves very badly, while another 29 percent said fairly badly; 24 percent chose fairly well, and 10 percent said troops had acted very well.

Among those who said the troops acted badly, 54 percent said their opinions were based on things they had heard. Thirty-nine percent said they decided based on things they had seen, while 7 percent said they were judging from personal experience.

Two-thirds -- 67 percent -- said troops were not trying at all to keep ordinary Iraqis from being killed in exchanges of gunfire, while 18 percent said the Americans were trying only a little and 11 percent said they were trying a lot.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said U.S. soldiers sometimes or often showed disrespect for Iraqis during home searches; 29 percent said that the troops did not. Forty-six percent said the troops sometimes or often showed disrespect for Iraqi women during such operations, while 39 percent said the soldiers did not.

Asked whether U.S. troops showed disrespect for Islam during such operations, respondents were split -- 42 percent said often or a little, while 43 percent said not at all.

Those polled gave the troops low marks for reconstruction efforts. Asked about the restoration of basic services such as electricity and clean drinking water, 41 percent said the troops were trying only a little and 44 percent said they were not trying at all.

Seventy-one percent surveyed said they saw troops mostly as occupiers, while 19 percent said they viewed them as liberators. Asked how they viewed troops at the time of the invasion a year ago, the respondents were split, with 43 percent saying they saw the coalition forces as occupiers and another 43 percent saying they considered them liberators at the time.

But asked, "Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?" Sixty-one percent said it was worth it. Twenty-eight percent said it was not, while 9 percent said they were not sure.

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