Afghanistan in 2017: A Survey of the Afghan People

Download PDF

Afghanistan in 2017:
A Survey of the Afghan People

Download PDF

Despite security and economic concerns, slight rise in optimism

The number of Afghans who say the country is moving in the right direction has increased and optimism has risen slightly, reversing a decade-long downward trajectory in national mood. At the same time, fears about security and the economy affect attitudes about the future of the country, and a large number of respondents indicate they would leave the country if afforded the opportunity. The Survey of the Afghan People is the longest-running and broadest nationwide survey of Afghan attitudes and opinions. Since 2004, the Survey has gathered the opinions of more than 97,000 Afghan men and women, providing a unique longitudinal portrait of evolving public perceptions of security, the economy, governance and government services, elections, media, women’s issues, and migration.

“Clearly, Afghans are eager for a better future. The Survey reveals what Afghans see as their immediate priorities: educational development, agricultural development, good security, and the building of roads and bridges are frequently cited as things that are going well at the local level. After a historic decline in 2016, confidence in public institutions has slightly improved; growing confidence in the Afghan National Security Forces stabilized in 2017.”

– Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Afghanistan

“Clearly, Afghans are eager for a better future. The Survey reveals what Afghans see as their immediate priorities: educational development, agricultural development, good security, and the building of roads and bridges are frequently cited as things that are going well at the local level. After a historic decline in 2016, confidence in public institutions has slightly improved; growing confidence in the Afghan National Security Forces stabilized in 2017.”

– Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Afghanistan

Demographics

The findings of the 13th Survey of the Afghan People are based on face-to-face interviews with a national sample of more than 10,000 Afghan citizens representing ethnic groups in all 34 provinces.

Rise in optimism despite violence, insurgencies, and lack of employment

32.8% of Afghans say their country is moving in the right direction, reversing a downward trend in mood that began in 2013. A desire to rebuild (51.0%) contributed to the slight rise in optimism, and Afghans cite improvements in governance (26.7%), rights for women (14.9%), and the economy (11.6%) as reasons for the uptick in mood, despite the nation’s challenges to maintain security against the Taliban insurgency and the growing presence of ISIS/Daesh. The number who say the country is moving in the wrong direction declined to 61.2% from a 2016 high of 65.9%.

Heightened sense of risk contributes to rising number of Afghans willing to migrate

38.8% of Afghans would leave the country if afforded the opportunity—the second-highest level recorded in Survey history. Men (41.2%) are more likely than women (36.3%) to wish to leave Afghanistan. An increase in casualty deaths, clashes, and attacks in Kabul strongly influence the willingness to leave—76.3% cite insecurity as a top reason to leave Afghanistan followed by unemployment at 54.5%. Those aware of ISIS/Daesh express a desire to leave at 40.5%, compared to those who have not heard of this group (32.7%).

“The importance of comprehensive, reliable data cannot be overstated. The Survey is a map of social change over time, presenting a clear picture of the gains and gaps that Afghans perceive in a rapidly transforming nation.”

– David D. Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation

“The importance of comprehensive, reliable data cannot be overstated. The Survey is a map of social change over time, presenting a clear picture of the gains and gaps that Afghans perceive in a rapidly transforming nation.”

– David D. Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation

Growing confidence in Afghan National Security Forces

Attitudes toward the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA) have stabilized in 2017, which after 2014 saw a sharp decline in confidence. The number of Afghans who strongly agree that the ANP is honest and fair increased by 7.2 percentage points over 2016. The proportion of Afghans who strongly agree that the ANP helps improve security has stopped falling, with a slight uptick of 2.0 percentage points this year in assessments that the ANP is efficient at arresting criminals.

Afghans support women’s leadership and education but the picture is mixed

Women are becoming more visible in the news media and broadcast television, but support for women in leadership roles is mixed. Most Afghans (69.7%) agree women should be able to join a community development council; there is less support for a woman to become a cabinet member (56.0%), a provincial governor (55.4%), and a CEO of a private company (54.6%). This year, 36.4% say education/illiteracy is a problem for women, making this the biggest problem facing women cited across all genders, ages, ethnicities, and the rural/urban divide.

Afghans are slightly more confident in public institutions and government performance

After a historic decline in 2016, confidence in public institutions has improved; some remain skeptical about leaders’ abilities to improve living conditions. 56.2% believe the National Unity Government (NUG) is doing a good job, a 7.1 percentage point increase from 2016, and 56.9% are satisfied with their provincial governments. Afghans are still most confident in their religious leaders (67.3%), followed by the media (65.7%) and community shuras/jirgas (65.7%).