Asia Foundation Releases 2012 Survey of the Afghan People

Event: November 14, 2012, Kabul

6,300 citizens polled on reconciliation, unemployment, governance, development; security remains most significant factor in shaping public opinion

Kabul, November 14, 2012 — The Asia Foundation today released Afghanistan in 2012: A Survey of the Afghan People, its eighth annual survey of Afghan citizens across all 34 provinces. In June 2012, a team of Afghan pollsters—both men and women—fanned out across the country to gather first-hand opinions from nearly 6,300 Afghan citizens on a wide range of topics that are critical to the future of Afghanistan. The broadest and most comprehensive public opinion poll in the country reveals that public optimism about the overall direction of Afghanistan is up from previous years: just over half of Afghans think the country is moving in the right direction (52%), an increase from 2011 (46%) and 2010 (44%). Support for the government’s peace and reconciliation remains very high (81%).

As the 2014 deadline nears for the transition of national security from NATO forces to Afghan control, The Asia Foundation survey reveals useful, policy-relevant information about Afghan public opinion on government performance, public policy, politics and political processes, and development progress. The 2012 survey report was written by a team of six Afghan researchers and social science experts who are particularly well positioned to analyze the data, identify trends, and offer key insights on Afghanistan’s development.

“Security continues to be the biggest indicator of both optimism and pessimism for Afghans,” said Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation Deputy Country Representative, Afghanistan. “But it is clear that life goes on as Afghans express deep-seated concerns for jobs, education, public services, political participation, and a better life. This survey helps to give us a sense of citizens’ priorities, needs, and views.” Ahmadzai continued: “We hope these findings help bridge the gap in understanding between the international community, the Afghan government, and local communities—dialogue necessary for Afghanistan’s long-term prospects.”

Download the complete survey report, key findings, frequently asked questions (FAQs), slideshow, and Visualizing Afghanistan data visualization platform here. Interact with us on Facebook or follow @Asia_Foundation on Twitter.

Key findings from the 2012 survey include:

  • Security concerns remain the most significant factor in shaping Afghans’ assessment of progress in the country.

    Just over half of respondents (52%) say Afghanistan is moving in the right direction, up from 46% in 2011 and 44% in 2010. Among those who are optimistic, improved security (41%) was the most frequently cited reason, followed by reconstruction and rebuilding (35%).  Likewise, those who are more pessimistic about the direction of the country most often attribute their pessimism to concerns about insecurity (39%).

  • Unemployment is identified as a major problem at both national and local levels.

    Respondents cite insecurity (28%), unemployment (27%), and corruption (25%) as the three biggest problems facing Afghanistan as a whole; at the local level, more than two thirds (70%) of respondents say the employment situation in their local area is quite bad or very bad.

  • Afghans’ support for peace and reconciliation remains high.

    A large majority of respondents (81%) agree with the government’s national reconciliation and negotiation efforts with the Taliban, with 38% strongly in favor. Although a majority within all ethnic groups are in favor of the government’s reconciliation efforts and negotiation, a relatively higher number of Pashtuns (85%) and Uzbeks (84%) are supportive of this endeavor.

  • Afghans report improvements over the past year in overall household financial wellbeing and access to schools.

    Over half of respondents (53%) reported that their families are more prosperous today than they were during the Taliban era. Half of all respondents (50%) say their household financial wellbeing has improved during the past year, and half (51%) say that access to schools has improved.

  • Afghans express confidence in local government capacity; cite limited but growing confidence in central government institutions.

    In 2012, respondents have slightly more confidence in provincial government than they do in parliament, the public administration, municipalities, and government ministers. However, confidence in many of these central bodies is modestly rising over time. Three quarters (75%) of respondents give central government performance a positive assessment, including 15% who say it is doing a very good job and 60% who say it is doing a somewhat good job.

  • Development efforts most visible to Afghans are related to education and reconstruction/building of roads and bridges.

    More than half of those surveyed are aware of development projects related to education (53%) and reconstruction/building of roads and bridges (50%).  Among those who indicated awareness of such development projects, more than one third (35%) say the United States has provided the most aid in their local area. Respondents also identified Germany (9%), Japan (9%), Australia (5%), India (4%), Turkey (3%), and Sweden (3%).

  • Afghans agree that women and men should have equal opportunities in education and employment, but are divided on the issue of women’s political participation.

    Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) agree that women and men should have equal educational opportunities, including 48% who strongly agree. Two thirds of Afghans surveyed say they think women should be allowed to work outside the home. Almost one third of respondents (29%) identify lack of education and/or illiteracy as the biggest problem faced by women.


Afghanistan in 2012: A Survey of the Afghan People is the eighth annual survey conducted by The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan and the broadest and most comprehensive public opinion poll in the country. A random, nationally representative sample of 6,290 Afghan citizens were polled in-person across all 34 provinces between June 17 and July 1, 2012. Respondents were 18 years and older, residents of Afghanistan, and divided between men (56%) and women (44%). The survey respondents included both urban (22%) and rural (77%) households. The survey’s margin of sampling error is +/- 5.1% at 95% confidence level. The 2012 survey is a product of The Asia Foundation, with support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).


The Asia Foundation began operating in Afghanistan in 1954 and re-opened its Kabul office in 2002. Since then, the Foundation has assisted Afghan efforts to rebuild the country and accelerate development. Programs focus on governance, law, and civil society, including support for the development of a new constitution and national voter registration, civic education, and government-media relations. The Foundation provides long-term support and technical assistance to key governmental institutions responsible for the executive branch, parliamentary affairs, agriculture, and sub-national government. Other programs focus on women’s empowerment and education.

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