Asia Foundation Releases 2011 Survey of the Afghan People

More Afghans say country is headed in wrong direction; poll of 6,300 citizens covers security, reconciliation, governance, economy

Kabul, November 15, 2011 — While nearly half (46%) of Afghans say their country is moving in the right direction, more respondents than at any time since The Asia Foundation began polling there in 2004 say Afghanistan is headed in the wrong direction. According to the poll of 6,348 Afghan citizens released today, more than a third (35%) of those polled say things are moving in the wrong direction citing insecurity (including attacks, violence, and terrorism) as the main reason for pessimism.

At the same time, the survey reflects progress in day-to-day needs being met, with respondents citing the highest levels of satisfaction with access to education, drinking water, and health services. Sympathy for armed opposition groups declined dramatically this year, reaching its lowest level since the series of surveys began. Respondents (43%) also report improvements in the financial well-being of their household, a slight increase from 2010.

Afghanistan in 2011: A Survey of the Afghan People is the seventh poll conducted by The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan and is the broadest and most comprehensive public opinion poll conducted in the country. In-person interviews took place between July 2 and August 1, 2011, in all 34 provinces. Download the survey report at

Designed as a barometer of Afghan public opinion to inform national leaders, scholars, donors, and policymakers, the survey report explores the Afghan perspective on national mood, security, reconciliation and reintegration, economy, development and service delivery, governance, corruption, political participation, justice systems, women in society, and access to information.

“Security is the biggest problem for Afghans,” said Asia Foundation president David D. Arnold. “Afghans told the Asia Foundation that issues of security and conflict influence their perceptions about the future. We are encouraged by higher levels of satisfaction in access to education, drinking water, health services, and growing confidence in the role of public institutions.” He continued: “The priority now is to integrate these findings into useful guideposts for future development efforts by the Afghanistan government and the international community.”

Findings from the 2011 survey include:

  • Overall, 35% of Afghan citizens in 2011 say the country is moving in the wrong direction – an increase of 8% from 2010. The main reason cited for pessimism is insecurity, reported by 45% of the respondents who say that the country is moving in the wrong direction. This is followed by corruption (16%), bad government (15%), and unemployment (13%).
  • This year, despite economic, political, and security challenges facing Afghanistan, nearly half of the respondents (46%) say that things in the country are moving in the right direction, a slight decline but still higher than previous years. The main reason for optimism is reconstruction/rebuilding, cited by 40% of respondents who say the country is moving in the right direction. Good security (39%) and improvement in the education system (16%) are other factors cited for optimism.
  • Insecurity (attacks, violence, and terrorism) is identified as the biggest problem in Afghanistan by over a third of respondents (38%), followed by unemployment (23%), and corruption (21%).
  • In 2011, support for the government’s peace, reconciliation, and negotiation efforts with armed opposition groups remains very high (82%), suggesting that a substantial proportion of the Afghan public is in favor of a political solution to the ongoing conflict in the country, rather than a purely military one. However, the number of respondents who say they sympathize with the motivations of the Taliban reached its lowest level in 2011: support has fallen from 56% in 2009 and 40% in 2010 to 29% in 2011.
  • Forty-three percent of respondents report improvement of the financial well-being of their household (compared to 42% in 2010 and 31% in 2009). Reaching its highest levels in 2011, the majority of respondents report satisfaction with the availability of most basic services, including education for children (73%), clean drinking water (70%), and the availability of clinics and hospitals (57%).
  • The biggest problems facing women in Afghanistan in 2011 are lack of education and/or illiteracy (25%), lack of rights (15%), domestic violence (9%), forced marriage/dowry (8%), general healthcare (8%), and poverty (8%).

Held to the highest and most rigorous standards of social science research, the 2011 survey is a product of The Asia Foundation, with funding support provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

For the first time, we are unveiling an online data mapping tool, Visualizing Afghanistan, which presents survey responses by geographic region in Afghanistan and over time. Six years of survey data is available for download and analysis.

The survey’s key findings, frequently asked questions, slideshow, and other multimedia are available on our website. Interact with us on Facebook or follow @Asia_Foundation on Twitter.

Read more about the Foundation’s programs in Afghanistan. For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room.

Related locations: Afghanistan, Washington DC
Related programs: Conflict and Fragile Conditions

Read our latest news, or insights from our blog.

Media contacts

Amy Ovalle, Vice President, Global Communications

Eelynn Sim, Director, Media & Strategy


Impact Report 2020

Leading through change