Good News from Afghanistan

Here’s something that ought to have been mentioned last week: the Asia Foundation released results from the largest opinion poll ever conducted in Afghanistan. At 133 pages, it’s quite a read.

Some of the more interesting findings include:

  • 44% of Afghans feel the country is headed in the right direction, with 21% believing the opposite.
  • Good security and the end of the war are cited as reasons to be cheerful by many of those who believe Afghanistan is headed in the right direction, whereas those who disagree highlight a weak economy, bad government and a lack of reconstruction.
  • On a local level, the biggest problems are perceived to be unemployment (34%), a poor economy (17%) and a lack of basic amenities such as electricity (25%) and water (18%), all of which outweigh worries about security (8%) with 64% of Afghans describing the security situation in their area as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.
  • On a national level, respondents stated the biggest challenges facing their country were unemployment (31%), security (27%), a poor economy (24%). Corruption and the continuing presence of the Taliban were each considered major problems by 18% of respondents.
  • 64% believe that guaranteed freedom of speech since the fall of the Taliban has resulted in people being able to express their political opinions.
  • 87% have either ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of trust in the Afghan National Army, with 86% saying the same of the Afghan National Police.
  • When asked what democracy meant to them, the most popular response was ‘freedom’ (54%), followed by ‘peace’ (37%), ‘government of the people’ (33%) and ‘rights and law’ (31%).
  • And the most important things that democracy would bring each respondent? ‘Peace’ (41%), ‘freedom’ (37%), ‘rights and law’ (33%) and ‘Islamic democracy’ (31%).
  • Although over half of respondents (54%) thought that political parties should be allowed to meet in their area, almost two-thirds (64%) felt that this should not be extended to include ‘all political parties, even the ones most people do not like‘.
  • However, 84% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree somewhat’ that the government allowing peaceful opposition is ‘a good thing.’
  • In addition, 90% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree somewhat’ that ‘everyone should have equal rights under the law, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or religion‘. In particular, women’s rights were cited by 22% of those interviewed as one of the most important things democracy would bring.
  • Finally, 82% of those surveyed ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ that ‘religious authorities should lead people in obeying the obligations of their faith while political leaders should make decisions about how the government is run‘.

You can download the full survey here (3.9Mb) where, in addition to a breakdown of the responses, you’ll find comprehensive details of the survey methodology and questions asked of the 6226 respondents by the team of 409 interviewers over the summer.