Afghanistan in 2019: A Survey of the Afghan People

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Afghanistan in 2019:
A Survey of the Afghan People

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The longest-running barometer of Afghan opinion, the Survey of the Afghan People presents a clear picture of the gains and gaps that Afghans perceive in a rapidly transforming nation. The Survey, now on its fifteenth edition, has gathered the views of more than 129,000 Afghans since 2004 on security, reconciliation with the Taliban, migration, the role of women, elections and other key issues. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AfghanSurvey.

National mood influenced by potential peace talks

The Survey has shown over time that public optimism increases in any election year. In 2019, 36.1% of respondents say the country is going in the right direction, up slightly from 32.8% in 2018. Afghans who say the country is moving in the right direction cite improved security at 55.7% and reconstruction/rebuilding/infrastructure at 48.6%. At the same time, 58.2% of Afghans say the country is moving the wrong direction, down slightly from 61.3% in 2018. Reasons for pessimism include insecurity/crime (74.7%), the economy (41.5%), and the state of governance (31.1%).

High awareness of elections with TV, radio, internet access

During fieldwork for the 2019 Survey, 80.9% of Afghans were aware of the upcoming presidential elections; more than half (58.6%) say they voted in the parliamentary election. Awareness is higher among men (85.7%) than women (76.1%) and more men (66.9%) say they voted than did women (50.3%). TV is the main source of election information (55.5%), with radio a distant second (22.9%). In 2019, 14.4% of Afghans use the internet as their main source of news and information.

Increased optimism around the peace talks along with persistent fears about insecurity and the economy continue to influence Afghan views. Following the collapse of the talks and election delays (which took place after this year’s Survey fieldwork), prospects for a sustainable political settlement are unclear. More than ever, empirical data is a crucial resource for the future and development of Afghanistan.

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

Concerns over risking gains for Taliban peace deal

On peace talks, we ask Afghans if they are aware of efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, whether they support such efforts, and whether they feel sufficiently represented in the talks. 65.6% say they would not vote for a president who accepted a peace deal that jeopardized women’s education (65.6%), women’s ability to work outside the home (65.0%), or the central government losing territory (65.8%).

Growing support for women’s education

Peace discussions hit a nerve for many Afghans envisioning a retreat to Taliban era rules. Support for and approval of women’s educational opportunities continued to climb this year, to 86.6%, up from 84.0% in 2018. A record high number of Afghans (76%) support women working outside the home, up from 70.3% in 2018. Afghans cite lack of educational opportunities as the biggest problem facing women (43.2%), followed by lack of rights (34.1%), lack of employment opportunities (24.1%), and violence (18.1%).

“Given Afghanistan’s political divisions, structural governance challenges, and economic insecurity, the importance of reliable data on the views of Afghan citizens cannot be overstated. Our goal is to provide timely data and analysis in support of Afghan government and citizens’ efforts to build a stable, prosperous society.”

– David D. Arnold, President, The Asia Foundation

Attitudes on influencing local government decisions and support for democracy

The number of Afghans who believe that they can have influence over their local governance is the second-highest figure in Survey history and it continues the trend of year-on-year increases since 2016. Satisfaction with democracy has increased to 65.1% (a steady increase from 57.2% in 2015).