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Sectarian Integration in the Police and Support for Anti-Government Violence: Evidence from Iraq

Student Researcher: Matthew Nanes
Location: Iraq

Can integrating the police serve as a mechanism for improving the citizen-state relationship and decreasing support for anti-government violence in societies with deep-seated ethnic or religious divisions? This survey experiment measured civilian perceptions of the degree to which the police are integrated, both across Iraq and in respondents’ specific neighborhoods. The survey provides insight into the attitudes and experiences of Baghdad residents after more than a decade of conflict.


The survey was carried out across 22 different neighborhoods in Baghdad. The findings suggest that the Iraqi bureaucracy has undergone significant development and consolidation. Efforts to train and mobilize state security forces appear to be paying off, as the police have supplanted the armed militias as the most relevant providers of security in Baghdad.

Citizens who perceive the police as more fairly integrated at both the national and local levels reported being less afraid of the police, and said that the police treat citizens more fairly regardless of citizens’ sectarian affiliation. Similarly, Iraqis who perceived the police as more integrated are less afraid of the government and were more likely to say that the government distributes goods and services fairly to members of all sects.