By Andy Sambidge
New YouGov Siraj survey highlights differences between Shia and Sunni communities in Gulf state
Most Bahrainis are optimistic about the future for themselves and their country – but they are divided about the protests of recent weeks, according to the results of a new poll.
On most questions, gender, age and income made little different to the responses, pollsters YouGov Siraj said, but often striking differences were determined by religion, with Sunni and Shia respondents often giving very different answers.
For example, 86 percent of Shia respondents described the protests as "reflecting the true voice of the people of Bahrain", while 62 percent of Sunni respondents described them as "the result of external interference from neighbouring countries in Bahraini politics".
Most Sunni respondents said they trusted local TV stations and newspapers while most Shia respondents put far greater trust in the international news media.
However, both Shia and Sunni respondents tend to think the protests will improve the situation in Bahrain, the survey indicated, with Shia respondents far more optimistic (78 percent) than Sunni respondents (49 percent).
These poll, on behalf of Al Aan TV, which interviewed 594 Bahrain residents, showed there was also cross-community agreement that the priorities for the future are equal rights, political stability, freedom of expression and transparency in government and the judicial system.
Few Bahrainis wish to get rid of the monarchy; but people are divided over what kind of monarch they should have, the survey results indicated.
More than 70 percent of the minority Sunni community wants "a powerful monarch, as in the recent past", whereas 78 percent of the larger Shia community would prefer a modern constitutional monarch, like Britain, where the monarch is a figurehead, but has no political power.
Only four percent of Sunnis and 13 percent of Shias would prefer no monarch at all.
Peter Kellner, YouGov president, said: “Overall, this survey suggests that most Bahrainis want the basic features of a modern democracy, and there is a widespread hope that the protest movement will lead to these things being achieved.
“But there is no consensus between the two religious communities on some basic issues, such as the future role of the monarchy. Lessons from elsewhere in the world, such as Northern Ireland, suggest that the achievement of a lasting democracy will depend in large measure on negotiating arrangements that allow the emergence of consensus – or at least agreement on political processes, if not always outcomes.”