What the Afghans Think

With all the discussion about the situation in Afghanistan – the run-off election and the pending decision by President Obama on sending more US troops to the country – you might find interesting the latest survey done by the Asia Foundation on what Afghans think about the overall direction of their country, as well as their perceptions of democracy and security. The study also looked at the attitudes that Afghan people have toward governing institutions, the role of women in society and their participation in politics, the economy, the presidential elections, and other issues.

Not surprising is the finding that insecurity from attacks, violence, and terrorism is the biggest problem facing the country, followed closely by unemployment, a poor economy, and corruption. Of the 6,406 Afghans surveyed, 42% think the country is headed in the right direction. This compares with 38% in 2008, 42% in 2007, 44% in 2006, and 64% in 2004. Meanwhile, 29% feel the country is moving in the wrong direction, compared to 32% in 2008, 24% in 2007, 21% in 2006, 11% in 2004.


5 Responses to “What the Afghans Think”

  1. 1 Samuel Quintanar 29/10/2009 at 4:52 pm

    I have a hard time trusting how accurate statistic reports like these really are, especially considering the hectic situation Afghanistan is in. It seems tough enough to accumulate particularly reliable statistics even in more stable places like Hong Kong or the United States, just because those seeking to collect statistics can’t be sure that they know that they are sampling an appropriate cross section of the population they are querying. Polls like these from Afghanistan become even more suspect to me considering that the statistic report is taking place in a country were a considerable amount of the population may be unaccessible due to security concerns.

  2. 2 Lau Siu Fai 31/10/2009 at 3:37 am

    I think the result of the survey is quite consistent with common expectation. Security, violence and terrorist attack is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems confronting Afghanistan. This situation further reveals the difficulties in democratic consolidation of this imposed democracy.

    Here I want to share a documentary entitled “The Enemies of Happiness”, which records a woman’s story in Afghanistan in 2005, during which the Afghan parliament was at the first time democratically elected. The main character is named Malalai, who ran for the election in Farah Province. Her intention to contest in the election was to arouse the awareness of women’s rights in Afghanistan and expose Afghans to the enemies of women, democracy and the happiness (which are the warlords). The documentary summarizes the difficulties she encountered in running her election campaign.

    My first reflection on watching this documentary is that gender discrimination in Afghanistan is extremely serious. For example, during Malalai’s election campaign, she was constantly threatened. Due to safety reason, she could not visit remote villages in campaign period, so could only record her voice in radio tape for publicity in those areas. Moreover, during the information session provided to candidates 10 days prior to the election, some men raised the issue that women could not vote on election day simply because they needed to take care of children. Some men even said they won’t allow their wives to walk to the polling station.

    Secondly, there are also numerous difficulties in consolidating a new democracy like Afghanistan. In the previously-mentioned information session provided to candidates before election, the host was still teaching the candidates on the concept of fair election and democracy, which are all entirely new to Afghans. This lack of knowledge and actual realization on democracy and fair election is one of major obstacles for democratic consolidation in Afghanistan.

    Besides, electoral violence such as bomb attacks nearly happened every day. This exactly mirrors on what is still happening today. There is still much fundamental distrust on this US-imposed democracy, and perhaps many people regard it as the indoctrination of western values and a new form of imperialism.

  3. 3 Anushri Alva 01/11/2009 at 11:58 am

    I agree, with you Samuel, its hard to trust stats taken in a country where women barely have a voice.

    In any case I’m waiting for Abdullah to make his statement today with regard to the run off election. Siu Fai, I’ve watched the documentary you’ve mentioned, and I know it really portrays things as being really bleak in Afghanistan. I think maybe you’ll be interested in this documentary that was screened at the sundance film festival this year, its called afghan star


    it looks at “democracy” through reality tv in afghanistan.This, in one way, gives one an insight into what the afghani people feel and sort of even ties in with our lecture on social media, the other day, and the kind of impact it could have in a non democratic country.

  4. 5 Ryan Jacobs 08/11/2009 at 12:54 am

    Looking at the report more in depth the stats, seem to show that reconstruction efforts however slow are moving in the right direction.

    “More respondents in 2009 also mention reconstruction and rebuilding (36%) and opening of schools for girls (21%) as reasons for optimism than in previous years.”

    The problem here is that security is necessary for reconstruction, and reconstruction is necessary for security. In that providing more stable employment is more likely to breakup certain parts of the insurgency fighting for economic reasons. What I found most odd about the stats was the low ranking by Afghans of corruption as the largest problem. Corruption in Afghanistan breeds the insecurity ISAF forces are dealing with daily and also inhibits development which Afghans desperately need. Either there’s a disconnect between the reports on corruption outside Afghanistan, or the stats might be off, which relates to earlier readers concerns.

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