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What Iranian and Iraqi Shiites think: A new survey of thousands of pilgrims

What Iranian and Iraqi Shiites think: A new survey of thousands of pilgrims

Here are some highlights from a new survey conducted and analyzed by Fotini Christia and her poli sci posse at MIT:

— Support among Iraqis for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Iraqi state was high. Over 80 percent opposed the establishment of an autonomous Sunni region or a separate Kurdish state.

— In general, Iranians are less accepting of Sunnis than Iraqis — despite, or perhaps as a result of, the differing levels of contact between the two groups.

— Respondents held overwhelmingly positive views of Iran’s role in global affairs, indicating that among this group of pilgrims, Iran has succeeded in conveying itself as the protector of Shiite interests throughout the Middle East. These attitudes were consistent across various arenas of conflict.

— Respondents, on average, expressed neutral attitudes toward the United States and preferred minimal involvement of the United States in Middle Eastern affairs. Respondents saw the United States as favoring traditional Shiite enemies, while treating Shiite allies unfairly.

— The majority of individuals stated that they viewed the United States’ role in conflicts throughout the Middle East as having “no effect” and stated neutral attitudes toward the United States as a whole.

— Over 75 percent of Iranians and Iraqis got the majority of their information from TV.

— About half of Iranians and Iraqis got their news from the internet at least a few times a month. Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber were popular online applications in both Iran and Iraq. Iraqis were prolific users of YouTube and Facebook.

— Three quarters of respondents in Iraq and Iran believed that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men, and 60 percent of Iranians and 63 percent of Iraqis believed that university education was equally important for men and women (difference significant at the 0.01 level). Almost all respondents believed that a woman should be able to choose whom she wanted to marry, with 95 percent of Iranians and 90 percent of Iraqis agreeing (difference significant at the 0.01 level).

— Respondents from both Iran and Iraq were extremely divided on issues of democracy and human rights, with about half of respondents in each country viewing different aspects of democracy at least somewhat negatively.

— 57 percent of Iranians argued that a lack of respect for human rights is justified for security purposes, as opposed to only 29 percent of Iraqis.

— Iranian respondents exhibited substantial faith in the current party and government system. Over 70 percent believed the current party was the best to lead Iran, more than half stated that they could criticize the government without fear, and over 60 percent saw the most recent elections as completely free and fair.

Photo credit: SFC Larry E. Johns/Wikimedia Commons