Basra residents, for the most part, hold negative opinions regarding the service provided by British troops stationed in the province since the 2003 invasion, and believe the turnover to Iraqi control will have a positive impact on the current level of violence, according to new polling data released Friday.
The UK-based polling agency, Opinion Research Business (ORB), interviewed a random sample of 922 adults across the southern city of Basra between 3 and 8 December, collecting data for two reports by the BBC and London's Sunday Times.
The BBC poll discovered that 86% of Basra's residents believe British troops have had a negative effect on the Iraqi province, with 56% reporting their presence has increased the overall level of militia violence.
Roughly two out of three believe security will improve after the British hand back control to Iraqi forces on Sunday, with a slightly larger number believing the move will improve things over the long-term.
When asked what they would like to see happen to the British troops, 63% of respondents said they wanted the Brits to leave the region entirely and go home, while only 1 said they should stay to patrol the city's streets. Almost 20% said British troops should stay in the region but in another country where they could be called on in a time of crisis.
The Sunday Times poll evidences some overlap in meaning to the BBC one, asking Basra residents if they will "feel more safe or less safe" after British troops hand control to Iraqi forces. A full 70% expect they will feel "somewhat" or "a lot" more safe, while only 10% say they think things will get worse.
Fifty-three percent report they believe violence will decline because the militias will have no more British troops to target, and only 9% say they think power struggles between militias will flare into greater violence, though 38% said they didn't know, or refused to answer the question.
Approximately one-third report that the British troops pose the biggest security threat to the province, surpassing responses citing Iran (21%) or unemployment (16%).
Respondents were roughly split over the implications of a British drawdown on Tehran's role in the province, with about half roughly split between those that expect Iranian influence to decline and those that expect it to grow, though 41% said they didn't know.