ORB, a British polling group, has recently released a poll they took in Iraq in August that suggest that there have been more than a million Iraqi violent deaths because of the invasion, (and about 800,000 of those in Baghdad, based on 206 interviews in that city.)
This is newsworthy if true, and ORB has issued a press release to that effect. They’ve missed an even bigger story. Based on the same 206 interviews, in theory selected entirely at random from the Baghdad population of about six million, Baghdad is mostly Christian: 37% Orthodox, 13% Catholic, 9% Protestant and 1% Christian (page 46).
One possible explanation is that the ORB interviews were entirely random, and that the Baghdad population is actually about 60% Christian, plus or minus random sampling error.
Another, which I prefer, is that it is very difficult to do a true random sample when your next planned interview is on the other side of a checkpoint manned by heavily armed locals with a dim view of outsiders who want to ask possibly inconvenient questions.
This would explain another puzzle in the ORB results. They imply that almost one in two Baghdad households have lost a family member. Both media reports and previous polls have indicated that the Iraqis being killed are overwhelmingly adult males: they are both more likely to be targeted and more likely to be exposed to attack. Iraq Body Count estimates that 90% of the civilian deaths are adult males, and including soldiers and insurgents would make the ratio even more extreme. Iraq is also a young country, with about half the population under eighteen. One would expect that if the Baghdad households sampled are like typical Iraqi households, those deaths would significantly impact the ratio of male to female adults answering the poll. This does not occur in the Baghdad poll results.
It seems likely that something decidedly unrandom has happened to the Baghdad sample. Or some Baghdad respondents are using an expansive definition of household that includes, say, everybody in their apartment building. Or both. Or there was an error in coding the results.
Update: ORB issued revised data, dated 9/20/2007, that gives changed results for all religion categories in Baghdad while leaving other data unchanged. Christians are now reduced to 3% of the city’s population. Although no explanation has been offered on their website, it seems likely that many of the Baghdad responses on religion were originally entered incorrectly.
The gender demographics for Baghdad still seem to conflict with the reported violent death rate.