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Sunday 20 Apr 2014

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Afghanistan: national opinion poll for BBC, ABC News and ARD

A national opinion poll in Afghanistan suggests Afghans are still resolutely opposed to the return of the Taleban, but increasingly disillusioned and uncertain about what the future might hold for their country.

By comparison with previous polls, their confidence in both the government, and the ability of American, British and other troops to bring about lasting change for the better, are significantly diminished.

The Afghan people emerge from these surveys as patient and stoical, but depressed about the short-term future. When asked if things in Afghanistan were heading in the right direction, only 40% agreed – compared with 54% a year ago, and 77% in 2005.

For some, everyday life has improved, with better access to water and electricity supplies. But lack of security remains an over-riding concern for many.

And 50% say that corruption among government officials or the police has increased in the last year. Sixty-three per cent now say corruption is a big issue in their area, compared with 45% 12 months ago.

Hostility to the Taleban remains very strong throughout the country, with only 4% wanting them back, 58% saying the Taleban are the biggest danger to Afghanistan, 90% saying they are opposed to the Taleban and 84% saying that the Taleban are weak or non-existent in their own areas.

Only 8% think the Taleban will win their battle to return to power, and 71% say there should be no negotiations with them unless they stop the fighting.

Afghans take an increasingly sceptical view about the presence and effectiveness of foreign troops on their soil, the poll suggests, and the British rate less well than the Americans.

Sixty-nine per cent of people still support the overthrow of the Taleban by foreign forces in 2001. But only 32% think US forces are doing a good or excellent job now, compared with 68% in 2005.

Forty-seven per cent have a favourable opinion of the United States as a whole – down from 83% in 2005 and 65% in 2007. And only 38% have a favourable view of Britain – a fall from 49% a year ago.

There's an increase in the number of people who think attacks on foreign forces can be justified – 25% say they can and 64% say they can't; in 2007 these figures were 17% and 74%.

Attitudes to Pakistan are overwhelmingly negative, with 91% saying they have an unfavourable view of the country and 86% saying they believe Pakistan has a negative influence in Afghanistan. Sixty-seven per cent say Pakistan is allowing the Taleban to operate within its borders.

The poll was commissioned by the BBC, ABC News and ARD of Germany.

It was conducted by the US pollsters D3 Systems. The fieldwork was carried out by the Afghan Centre for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul.

Face-to-face interviews were carried out with 1,534 Afghans in all of the country's 34 provinces between 30 December 2008 and 12 January 2009. The margin of error is + or – 2.5%.

This is the fourth such BBC/ABC/ARD poll in the country, following the first news-sponsored survey ever conducted in Afghanistan at the end of 2005, a second at the end of 2006 and another at the end of 2007.

Other selected findings, with comparative figures in brackets where the same questions were asked in previous polls

Living conditions are generally slightly improved: these figures record those who said that things were bad, or very bad:

  • Security from crime/violence 42% (32% in 2007, 24% in 2005)
  • Availability of jobs 70% (73% in 2007, 60% in 2005)
  • Availability of clean water 35% (46% in 2007, 41% in 2005)
  • Supply of electricity 77% (84% in 2007, 81% in 2005)
  • Availability of food 35% (33% in 2007, 20% in 2005)
  • Availability of medical care 49% (53% in 2007, 55% in 2005)
  • Availability of local schools 22% (29% in 2007, 19% in 2005)

Seventy-three per cent express concern that the worldwide economic downturn will affect the commitment of other countries to help reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan.

Afghans are just about keeping faith with their government, perhaps because they can see no obvious alternative. Fifty-nine per cent think the government is making some or a lot of progress in providing a better life, 38% say little or no progress (no comparison). Forty-eight per cent think the government is doing a good or excellent job, down from 59% last year and 80% in 2005. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's equivalent figures are 52%, as against 63% last time and 83% in 2005.

Sixty-three per cent support the presence of US forces – down from 71% in 2007 and 78% in 2006. Support for other foreign forces, including Britain, stands at 59%, down from 67% last year and 78% in 2006. There's an increase in the number of people who think foreign forces should start pulling out straight away – 21%, up from 14% last year (when the question addressed only US forces).

Twenty-one per cent think the election of President Obama in the United States will make things better for Afghanistan; 16% say it will make matters worse and 35% don't think it will make much difference.

PR

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