Insights and Analysis

2011 Survey of the Afghan People: Growing Fear in Afghanistan

November 16, 2011

By V. Bruce J. Tolentino

Just yesterday, on November 15 in Kabul and Washington, D.C., The Asia Foundation released the results of its 2011 Survey of the Afghan People.

The annual Survey of the Afghan People is the most comprehensive and credible nationwide poll of public opinion on topics related to national mood, governance, security, and development in Afghanistan. In 2011, the survey polled over 6,300 respondents from all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.

2011 Survey of the Afghan People

The Asia Foundation interviewed 6,348 adult Afghans, across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan in face-to-face interviews for the 2011 Survey. Above, surveyors poll a resident in Bamyan Province.

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The Asia Foundation has implemented the survey since 2004. Over this period, the survey has generated a treasure trove of data and information, and the changes over time in the views and mindset of the people of Afghanistan.

The opinions of average Afghans matter a great deal in a country that continues to face enormous challenges in governance, security, and livelihoods. Good understanding among national leaders and international “influencers” of the views of the general population are also crucial as the struggling nation attempts to define its national vision while being buffeted by the inconstant waves of international intervention and regional competition.

The coalition partners, dominated by the United States, have begun implementation of a somewhat vaguely defined program of transition of responsibility for security from the international military to Afghan security forces. The transition program and many other important issues related to the future of Afghanistan are being intensely discussed at the national  loya jirga assembly, which I’m attending, that President Hamid Karzai convened in Kabul today, made up of more than 2,000 leaders from a range of backgrounds – from farmers and business owners to local officials from across the country.

The results of the 2011 Survey will be useful information for the thousands of delegates to the loya jirga. A subset of the key findings from this year’s survey is of special interest: the rise of fear among the Afghan population.

Insecurity is the top reason for pessimism about the country’s future, cited by close to half of the 35 percent of those who believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

In fact, insecurity (including attacks, violence, and terrorism) is identified as the biggest national problem in Afghanistan by over a third of respondents (38%), particularly in the South East (56%), East (53%), and South West (52%) of the country.

More than half of respondents (56%) say they fear for their personal safety. This proportion has grown steadily from 40 percent in 2006. Moreover, a record high of 22 percent of respondents report that they or someone in their family were victims of violence or crime in the past year. The most common form of crime experienced is physical attack or beating (36%), followed by burglary/looting (12%) and racketeering and extortion (10%).

While violence resulting from the actions of foreign forces was reported by a relatively low 8 percent, as much as 76 percent reported fear when encountering the international military.

The majority of respondents say they have some level of fear voting in a national election (57%), participating in a peaceful demonstration (66%), running for public office (63%), and travelling from one part of Afghanistan to another part of the country (75%).

Fear of participating in Certain Activities 2011

Eighty-two percent of respondents support the government’s attempts to address the security situation through negotiation and reconciliation. Support for the government’s peace and reconciliation efforts and negotiations with the armed opposition is high: East (89%), South West (87%), North West (85%), and South East (83%). Eighty-one percent of respondents also agree with the government providing assistance, jobs, and housing to those who lay down arms and want to reintegrate into society.

Perhaps the growing levels of fear among the Afghan population underlie the population’s continuing support for the government’s approach toward negotiation and reintegration of armed opposition groups. There is not much choice.

V. Bruce J. Tolentino is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.


About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

InAsia is posted and distributed every other Wednesday evening, Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].


For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223