Afghanistan Flash Surveys on Perceptions of Peace, Covid-19 & the Economy

Three-wave series over six months examines Afghan perceptions on critical issues

Kabul, April 29, 2021 — In a survey released today by The Asia Foundation, Afghans report decreasing optimism surrounding the peace talks and reconciliation with the Taliban, and are more willing to make concessions in a peace deal involving the Taliban. The third and final wave of Afghanistan Flash Surveys on Perceptions of Peace, Covid-19, and the Economy indicate continued Afghan support for the protection of women’s rights in any peace agreement and are more confident in the capacity of the Afghan security forces. At the same, concerns around a deteriorating economy and the pandemic remain consistent across all three waves tracked over six months from September 2020 to February 2021. The report authors and Afghanistan experts examined the data series earlier today at a virtual panel.

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a unique challenge for survey research and inspired The Asia Foundation’s office in Afghanistan to pivot from the long-running annual Survey of the Afghan People to a series of telephone interviews. The Afghanistan Flash Survey series includes perceptions on the current and future state of the country, notably peace and reconciliation, women’s rights, economy, security, and Covid-19. Unique from other surveys, it is the Foundation’s first-ever panel survey in Afghanistan and is specifically designed to track the shifts in public sentiment and measure changing attitudes during a critical time in Afghanistan.

Fieldwork for Wave 3 was conducted from February 9-23, 2021, and presents the opinions of 4,059 men and women 18 years and older representing all major and most minor ethnic groups from all 34 provinces in the country. Findings are available from earlier waves: Wave 1 and Wave 2.

Key findings include:   

Peace: There is a decrease in the respondents who say peace is achievable in Afghanistan within the next two years, from 54.1 percent in Wave 1 to 43.9 in Wave 3. Regarding a Taliban role in government, 58.4 percent of respondents are willing to accept this (27.4% very willing and 31.0% somewhat willing). Over two-thirds say they would be very unwilling (63.5%) or somewhat unwilling (3.5%) to accept a peace agreement conceding control of certain provinces to the Taliban. The percentage of those citing they are very unwilling to cede control of certain provinces has increased by almost 10 percentage points from Wave 1 (54.6%) to Wave 3 (63.5%).

Women’s rights: Indicating a growing concern around protecting women’s gains over the past twenty years, an increasing proportion of Afghans say it is very important to protect women’s rights in a peace deal, up from 84.7 percent in W1 to 87.9 percent in W3. A majority of Afghans say they are unwilling to accept a peace agreement that compromises women’s ability to obtain an education (88.7%) or work outside of the home (78.5%). While there are high levels of support for women working outside of the home, a majority of Afghans strongly agree women should work only in female-dominated areas such as female-only schools (94.6%).

Security: Perhaps reflecting an increase in violence and pressure on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), over half of respondents (51.6%) say it is important to protect the presence of foreign troops in a peace agreement, a significant increase on the findings from W1, where 39.4 percent said it was either very important or somewhat important to protect the presence of foreign troops. Over half (54.3%) strongly agree that the Afghan National Army (ANA) while under half (45.5%) strongly agree that the Afghan National Police (ANP) can still provide adequate security without foreign technical assistance. These are somewhat higher than the 52.9 percent (ANA) and 43.4 percent (ANP) recorded in Wave 1, representing increasing confidence in ANDSF abilities.

Economy:  Indicating a declining economic landscape brought on by increasing violence, an uncertain peace process, concerns over future levels of donor assistance, and an economy rebounding from the shock of Covid-19, the proportion of respondents who say employment opportunities in their household has gotten worse in the past 12 months has remained static throughout the three waves of the Survey (W1, 74.0%; W2, 74.1%; W3 74.3%)

Covid-19: Fewer than half of Afghans report being either very worried (35.3%) or worried (12.8%) about going to work during the pandemic. This represents a significant decrease of almost two-thirds who responded to the same question in W2 (45.8% and 19.2% respectively). A majority, 85.5 percent report that they received adequate news and information on Covid-19 and the actions they need to take to respond to it. When asked to what extent the government has provided support to respondents and/or their families during the pandemic, 70.4 percent of respondents stated not at all.

“As domestic, regional and international efforts for achieving peace enter a new phase, and the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan approaches, it is essential to ascertain the views and concerns of Afghan women and men on important issues including the protection of rights and freedoms, security and the economy,” said Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan.

 Full survey results are available for download. 

This survey was conducted by telephonic interview using random digit dialing among a nationally representative sample of Afghan adults who use mobile phones. The 70 native-speaking Dari- and Pashto interviewers, gender-matched with respondents, used Tablet Assisted Personal Interviewing (TAPI) and Research Control Solutions (RCS) software. Survey weights were used for representativeness of the sample. The sample consisted of 78 percent men and 22 percent women and 62 percent urban households and 38 percent rural households, weighted to be gender-balanced (50:50) and nationally representative (74% rural, 26% urban) using the most recent population data released by the National Statistics and Information Authority. The margin of error with 95 percent confidence interval with p=.5 is ±1.54% based on a design effect estimate of 2.6. The complex margin of error with design effect with 95% confidence at p=.5 is ±2.48%. 

The Afghanistan Flash Surveys series is a product of The Asia Foundation with support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the German government’s Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenabeit (GIZ).

The Asia Foundation, an international development nonprofit organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia, began working in Afghanistan in 1954 and re-opened its Kabul office in 2002. With a long history of planning and implementing effective programs that benefit the country and its citizens, the Foundation maintains strong relationships with the government and civil society that have led to sustainable initiatives in governance and law, women’s empowerment, education, international cooperation, and the signature Survey of the Afghan People.

Related locations: Afghanistan
Related programs: Survey of the Afghan People
Related topics: Covid-19

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