The BBC on its website stated that its poll of 1000 Iraqis found that:
Less than 40% of those polled said things were good in their lives, compared to 71% two years ago. However, a majority of those questioned said that, despite daily violence, they did not believe Iraq was in a state of civil war.
However the BBC chose in its television news reporting only to give prominence to the first of these statements. There was almost no mention of the fact that most Iraqis said they did not think the country was in a state of civil war. The first of the statements is of course supportive of the "editorial line" that the BBC has taken consistently in this conflict while the second does not fit with the BBC line that has for some time sought to present the conflict as "civil war".
Again from the website;
The poll paints a picture of an increasingly polarised Iraq, with acutely diverging views between Sunni Arabs and Shias - Sunnis appearing more pessimistic.There are also regional differences, with pessimism most keenly felt across central Iraq, including Baghdad, where Sunni Arabs are most numerous.
Yet, not surprisingly for those who monitor BBC output, there was virtually no mention of this in the BBC tv output and the poll was presented as though it represented uniform Iraqi opinion.
Again from the website;
But despite their differences, 58% overall said they wanted Iraq to remain a unified country. Almost all said they did not want Iraq to be broken up along sectarian lines.
You will have figured out where this is going - Yes, you guessed - virtually no mention of this finding on the BBC news.
The poll produced conflicting views on the role of the US and its allies.
Only 18% said they had confidence in US and coalition troops, and 51% said they thought attacks on coalition forces were justified.
Did the finding that 51% thought attacks on coalition forces were justified get reported prominently on the BBC TV news? You bet it did.
However, only 35% said foreign troops should leave Iraq now. A further 63% said they should go only after security has improved.
Go on have a guess. Barely mentioned on BBC tv news? yes you go to the top of the class.
Asked now whether they thought reconstruction efforts in Iraq had been effective, some 67% said they felt they had not. And just 38% said the situation in the country was better than before the 2003 war, while 50% said it was worse. Many said the quality of their lives was deteriorating, with a particularly high proportion (88%) saying electricity and fuel supplies were poor.
Yes , again all prominently reported in the BBC tv news.
But look at their results more closely. The following table is presented on their website;
WAS US RIGHT TO INVADE IRAQ?
Consider this; in 2007, despite the awful violence of the last year in particular, 47% of Iraqi's still think that the US was either absolutely right or somewhat right in invading Iraq. The robustness of this figure since 2004 is really quite remarkable. But not remarkable for the BBC of course.
It is worth looking behind some of the other figures quoted;
....of Sunnis, 48%, said they thought Iraq should have a strong leader in five years' time, compared to 46% who said they wanted a democracy. Only 11% of Shias sought a strong leader, with 52% calling for democracy and 37% for an Islamic state.
Again it is quite remarkable that in the face of the seeming out of control religious violence of the past year that 46% of Sunnis and 52% of Shias are still committed to democracy and that the support for an Islamic state is less than 40% even among Shias.
So even on the basis of the BBC's own poll the picture is less bleak and more complex than the BBC chooses to reflect in its mainstream reporting.
The picture becomes even more complex however when the results of the Sunday Times poll are considered. (published just two days before the BBC poll).
The Sunday Times poll was much larger (5000 compared to 1000).
Much of the reporting on television and radio, and in most newspapers, conveys the picture of a country racked by a vicious civil war....
However , a survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis by Opinion Research Business, a reliable pollster , gives an utterly different view. It shows a country which is far more optimistic than anyone would have expected. By two to one, Iraqis say that life is better under the present system. There is as expected , a clear Sunni-Shia split. But even 29% of Sunnis ... say things are better now. This result , taking into account the fear, the bloodshed, the power cuts, the lack of water and the sheer struggle of everyday life, is remarkable.....Only a quarter of Iraqis think their country is in civil war.
Clearly the BBC chooses to present the gloomiest picture possible of Iraqi public opinion. Now no one would argue that the picture in Iraq is rosy or that Iraqi public opinion is uniformly upbeat and positive. It could hardly be so in the face of the difficulties Iraq faces. However the news media do the Iraqis no favours by seeking to present the most negative picture possible of the situation. The media should also seek to present positive aspects of the situation which give succour to those in Iraq who are seeking an optimistic future for their country. The media are not just passive observers in this process whatever they may like to believe of their role. The way they present the news shapes the public agenda and may considerably influence the outcome. It is time that the BBC presented a more balanced picture and remembered its responsibilities.