December 13, 2013 | By Dina Smeltz

Six in Ten Afghans Think 2014 Election Outcome will Improve Their Lives

The Asia Foundation released its ninth survey of the Afghan people last week in Kabul; the poll includes a sweeping look at Afghan attitudes toward security, governance, economic conditions and political participation.  With presidential elections scheduled for 2014, the July 2013 survey found an increasing percentage of Afghans saying that the country is going in the right direction (57%). But fewer than half express confidence in a range of political institutions including  government ministers (45%), parliament (46%), and the court system (43%), and these ratings are at an eight-year-low.  A majority of Afghans are still confident in provincial and community level organizations, but at lower levels than in prior years.

Majority Are Optimistic that Results of Presidential Election Will Improve Their Lives 

Despite the controversies and election fraud during the last presidential election in 2009, a majority of Afghans say that in general elections in Afghanistan are free and fair (61%; 35% disagree). Those who believe the elections are generally not "legit" cite corruption - in counting the votes, the electoral process, and in vote buying - and security issues as the main reasons.  A majority (56%) also expect the elections will make their lives betters, though a substantial minority say it will either make no difference (24%) or make their lives worse (15%).

Many remain fearful of venturing out to polling stations. Six in ten Afghans said they would have "some or a lot of fear" if they vote in a national or provincial election, up considerably since the question was first asked in 2006. Fear is highest in the South West, South East, and Western regions of the country, and among Pashtuns.   Election observers from Democracy International found that security concerns in the South contributed to limited accessibility in the 2009 election, particularly for women. Eight in ten say that security conditions are a factor in whether they will travel to polling stations to vote on election day. 

Source:  The Asia Foundation

Broad Confidence in Afghan Security Forces; One in Three Sympathizes with Armed Opposition

With US forces withdrawing in 2014 and no security agreement yet signed, a large majority of Afghans express confidence in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police (ANP) "to be honest and fair with the Afghan people" and to "help improve security." They are also confident that the  ANP "is efficient at arresting those who have committed crimes."  Only about one in three (35%) have sympathy for "armed opposition groups," down from 56 percent in 2009.  

Six in ten (63%) agree that reconciliation efforts between the government and armed opposition groups can stabilize the country, with this support largely concentrated around the provinces that border Pakistan (70-88%). The report notes that residents in the central provinces of Panjshir and Parwan and the western provinces of Ghor and Herat are least likely to support efforts at reconciliation (between 17-50%).   

Looking Ahead

The Asia Foundation and ACSOR, the polling organization carrying out the fieldwork, interviewed more than 9000 respondents nationwide for this survey - a huge effort for this nationwide poll.  The topics are wide-ranging and comprehensive in scope.  But I kept hoping for answers to questions not asked:  How do Afghans feel about US troops withdrawing?  Do they think the ANA can deliver security without assistance from US forces? What are their views on the bilateral security agreement and the possibility of the zero option?  What are their impressions of Karzai and his performance?  Whom would they like to see as his successor?  How would they feel about a power sharing arrangement with the Taliban, if negotiations ever restart?

At least in the publicly released results, I didn't see answers to these critical questions.  My takeaway from these findings is that if Afghans say they are fearful voting in July when the survey was fielded, they probably aren't going to feel much safer when US forces are gone.  And that has big implications for voting turnout and the ultimate credibility of the next elections.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive

| By Bettina Hammer

Peace to Prosperity Misses the Mark with Palestinians

At the June 25-26 Bahrain Peace to Prosperity Workshop, Jared Kushner presented the first component of a U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But how does this plan sit with the Palestinian public?



| By Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

Scholars vs the Public: Collapse of the INF Treaty

In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.

Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.



| By Craig Kafura

Expert Panel Survey: US Focus on the Denuclearization of North Korea

Despite expectations for the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, their recent summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts whether the United States should continue to focus primarily on denuclearization, or shift to arms control and non-proliferation.



| By Dina Smeltz

Opinion Landscape Not Ideal for New Mideast Peace Plan

At a Middle East conference this month in Warsaw, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast adviser, said that the administration will unveil its much-vaunted Middle East peace plan after the April 9 Israeli elections.


| By Karl Friedhoff

America the Dangerous

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on China, but has failed to convince the American public or many allies to follow suit. Instead, publics around the world now see the United States as a major threat.






| By Craig Kafura

2018: Year in Chicago Council Surveys

It's been a busy, eventful year around the world. Throughout 2018, the Council's polling team has captured public and opinion leader attitudes on some of the most pressing foreign policy issues, including US-Russia relations, American views of China, public support for internationalism and trade, and how the rising generation of Millennials think about American foreign policy.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Confidence in Congress Low

As the House becomes majority Democrat, there is low confidence among the American public for Congress--and several other institutions--to shape policies that benefit the United States.