Afghans Apprehensive But Cautiously Optimistic as They Move into Critical Transition
December 4, 2013
Today in Kabul, The Asia Foundation released its annual Survey of the Afghan People, the country’s broadest and most comprehensive public opinion poll with 9,260 Afghans interviewed face-to-face across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
This year’s survey is particularly significant as it reflects the perceptions of the Afghan people as they enter the critical transition year of 2014 faced with national elections, the drawdown of the remaining international security forces in the country, the growing insurgency, and the impact these events will have on the nation’s economy. People’s overall perceptions as reflected in this year’s survey data can be characterized as apprehensive but cautiously optimistic in some key areas.
This is the 9th year that The Asia Foundation has conducted the survey which allows for the longitudinal comparison of data over time in order to track changes in Afghans’ perceptions on key issues facing the country, including security, national reconciliation, the economy, development and essential services, the quality of governance and political participation, corruption, justice, gender equality, and access to information. This year’s survey polled 9,260 men and women, a 47 percent increase from previous years. The total margin of error in 2013 is 2.25 percent, a decrease of 2.85 percent from last year’s survey.
Respondents say the three biggest problems facing the country are insecurity, corruption, and unemployment. These three fundamental concerns are reflected throughout many of this year’s findings. Afghans also cite the presence of the Taliban in their area and the increase in suicide attacks as additional reasons for concern and some pessimism.
In a key finding indicating some guarded optimism for the future, 56 percent of respondents say the result of the 2014 presidential election is likely to make their life better. And, 57 percent say the country is generally moving in the right direction, up from 52 percent in 2012. Reasons given for why the country is moving in the right direction include evidence of physical reconstruction, better security in some areas, an improved educational system, and the active presence of the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army.
The number of Afghans who express concern for their own personal safety or that of their family members increased from 48 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of people who experienced personal crime is also up from 16 percent last year to 19 percent in 2013. Additionally, 75 percent of respondents express a lot or some fear when traveling from one part of Afghanistan to another, and the number of Afghans who fear voting in national and provincial elections rose to 59 percent.
Despite these fears, 72 percent of respondents report confidence in the Afghan National Police and 88 percent say they are confident in the performance of the Afghan National Army. People are generally satisfied (75%) with the performance of the government at the national level and a majority of respondents say the government’s effort at reconciliation with the Taliban can help stabilize the country. At the same time, satisfaction levels with all other levels of government declined in 2013.
While there is a great deal of variation in the responses based on region, province, urban versus rural, education level, income, and gender, the 2013 survey findings give reason for cautious optimism as Afghans move into critical elections and security transition in 2014.
Support for the 2013 survey is provided by Australian Aid/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Department for International Development (FCO/DFID), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mark Kryzer is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.
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