Press Office

Friday 19 Sep 2014

Press Release

Afghanistan: national poll for the BBC, ABC News/ARD Germany and the Washington Post

A national opinion poll in Afghanistan suggests that more Afghans feel that attacks against US or NATO/ISAF forces are justified than at any time since 2005. The poll was conducted for the BBC, ABC News/ARD Germany and the Washington Post.

Security has now overtaken the economy and jobs as their greatest concern. Support for President Karzai remains strong. The Taliban remain unpopular but there is an increase in support for the government negotiating a settlement with them.

More generally, Afghans now feel less confident about the future than they did a year ago.

The polling was carried out from 29 October to 13 November 2010, just before the NATO Summit in Lisbon.

Foreign troops

One of the most striking findings in this poll is the 19% increase in Afghans who think that attacks against US or NATO/ISAF forces are justified. 27% now say attacks are justified, compared with 8% in December last year.

This new figure is back close to the 25% who said attacks were justified in the poll in January 2009. It is also the highest figure since the 2005 poll when it was 30%. A majority (64%) still say that attacks are not justified but this is 12% down, and back at the same level as in January 2009.

There has been a 9% increase in people who blame US forces the most for the violence in Afghanistan, up to 14% from 5%. This compares with 53% who blame the Taliban, al-Qaeda or foreign Jihadis, but this is down 13% since last year. Only 3% blame NATO/ISAF forces (no change).

63% of those polled still support the presence of US forces and 54% still support the NATO/ISAF forces, but support for both are down (5% and 8%) since last year.

However, support has not switched instead to Taliban fighters or Jihadi fighters from other countries. 88% of those polled still oppose Taliban fighters (down 1%) and 82% oppose Jihadis fighters from elsewhere (up 1%).

Those polled also recognised some improvements in the performance of the foreign troops. 30% said they were now better at avoiding civilian casualties, up 6%, and over half (53%) said they were better at training the Afghan National Army and the local police.

But opposition to the increase in the number of foreign troops has strengthened. Almost half of those polled (49%) oppose the increase – that's up 13%.

When asked about the United Kingdom's overall role in Afghanistan, 21% said it was playing a positive role (down 7%); 43% said it was playing a negative role (up 12%).

For the USA, the figures were very similar: 36% said positive (down 9%), 43% said negative (up 12%).

Confidence

Of those questioned, 59% said they felt Afghanistan was heading in the right direction – down from 70% last year, although still up from the 40% low in the earlier poll in January 2009.

Similarly, 65% said they expected things to be better a year from now – compared with 71% last time.

Those polled were also more concerned about the future for their children – 56% thought that their children would have a better life than them, down from 61% last time; 17% thought their children would have a worse life, compared with 11% a year ago.

Problems

According to the poll, the economy and security remain the biggest problems facing Afghanistan. 65% of those polled put these at the top of a list of problems, compared with 66% last time.

But the security situation (warlords, attacks, violence etc) has overtaken the economy as the biggest problem, with 37% putting this first, up 5%.

And 9% more people (30%) said their ability to move around safely was bad, up 12% since they were first asked in 2007. 28% said the biggest problem was now the economy, down 6%.

Living conditions overall have not changed significantly. 70% of Afghans said they were very good or somewhat good, down just 1% from last year.

But there has been a 9% increase (up to 67%) in those who said that the availability of jobs or economic opportunities were bad, and 40% said the jobs situation was getting worse.

However, 71% said roads, bridges and infrastructure were either getting better or were much the same, compared with 28% who said they were getting worse.

President Karzai and the government

Support for President Karzai remains strong though down on last year. 62% said he was doing a good or excellent job and 58% said his government was doing well. A year ago these figures were 72% and 60%.

Support for the police was up 2%, with 65% saying that they were doing a good or excellent job.

But approval for the Afghan National Army has not been maintained, with the figures down 4% since last year, compared with a 12% increase the previous year.

An overwhelming 86% of Afghans said they would prefer to be ruled by the current government although this is down 4%. Only 9% said they would prefer the Taliban, but this is up 3% on last year.

When asked what poses the biggest danger to their country, 64% said the Taliban, down 5% since last year but still the second highest figure since the first poll in 2005. 31% said the Taliban were stronger than a last year, 1% more than last year but still 12% lower than in 2009. 33% said they had remained the same, up 8%.

Taliban

Nearly three quarters (73%) of Afghans now think that the government should negotiate a settlement with the Taliban, up 8% since last year. 23% say they should continue to fight, down 5%.

Fewer people think the Taliban has grown weaker; down from 40% of those polled to 33% this year. 64% said they would be very willing or somewhat willing to accept an agreement between the central government and the Taliban.

But there is opposition to ceding control over certain provinces to the Taliban; 61% said they would not be willing to accept such an agreement.

Politics

39% of Afghans said that an Islamic state was the best political system for Afghanistan at this time, down 4% from last year. 37% now say they support a democratic system with elections to choose political leaders, up 5%.

Nearly three quarters (73%) said the government should enforce Islamic principles strictly or very strictly.

Over half of Afghans acknowledge that their electoral system is affected by fraud. 56% said that the recent parliamentary elections were mostly fraudulent. But 59% of those polled said they were satisfied with the final outcome.

Corruption

Corruption remains a big problem but the figures show some changes compared with last year. 85% said corruption within the police or government is a problem in their area, and 37% said things were worse. Last year, those figures were 95% and 44%.

However, away from their own areas, 87% said that corruption within the government in Kabul was a problem (up 4%) and 92% said corruption in their province was a problem (up 2%). 67% believe that foreign aid money coming into Afghanistan is being misdirected to government officials.

Women

The poll shows a slight dip in support for more progressive attitudes to women.

On freedom of movement, 31% of those polled strongly opposed women travelling outside their neighbourhoods without a male relative, which could also indicate security concerns.

There was also a dip in strong support for women's education, down to 59% from 66% in December 2009, despite heavy investment by the coalition.

Helmand & Kandahar

Comparing the figures for these districts is difficult because of the sample sizes. However, across a whole set of questions ranging across security from crime and violence, overall living conditions, optimism for the future, security from the Taliban and other armed groups, two distinct patterns emerge.

1. In Helmand responses were much more positive than in Kandahar (eg security from crime and violence was judged "good" by 67% in Helmand and 37% in Kandahar).

2. Pashtuns (who made up 35% of the sample) were generally much more pessimistic than Tajiks (who made up 38% of the sample). For example, security from crime and violence was judged "good" by 61% of Tajiks and by 49% of Pashtuns. Many Tajiks live in the west of Afghanistan, bordering on Iran, and have avoided the worst of the fighting. The current military campaign is largely concentrated in the south and east of Afghanistan where the Pashtuns predominate.

Notes to Editors

This poll was commissioned by the BBC, ABC News/ARD Germany and the Washington Post.

It was conducted by the US pollsters D-3 Systems.

The fieldwork was carried out by the Afghan Centre for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR) in Kabul.

Face-to-face interviews were carried out in Dari or Pashto with a random sample of 1691 Afghans in all of the country's 34 provinces between 29 October and 13 November 2010. The margin of error is + or – 3%.

This is the sixth such media poll in the country. The first was conducted in Afghanistan at the end of 2005, a second at the end of 2006, a third at the end of 2007 and a fourth in February 2009 and the fifth in December 2009

LZ

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