The Asia Foundation Releases 2015 Survey of the Afghan People

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Major Afghan public opinion poll reveals rising concern over
political transition, insecurity, and struggling economy

KABUL, Afghanistan–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Afghan optimism about the overall direction of the country, fear for
personal safety, and confidence in government fell to their lowest point
in a decade. Afghans cite deteriorating security, unemployment, and
corruption as the main reasons for their pessimism. These are among the
main findings of an annual Asia
survey conducted with 9,586 Afghan citizens representing
14 ethnic groups and all 34 provinces in June 11-28, 2015. This year’s Survey
of the Afghan People
 includes new questions on youth, ISIL/ISIS,
women in leadership, migration, and mobile phone access. Read the
executive summary, FAQ, and analysis over ten years at

The longest-running and broadest nationwide survey of Afghan attitudes
and opinions, the annual survey provides insight into the views of
Afghans on issues central to the country’s development. More than 75,000
Afghans have been polled since 2004, and all data is public. The 2015
findings are particularly useful for Afghans and the international
community given the country’s rapidly evolving environment.

Optimism has declined since the Foundation conducted its last annual
survey in June 2014, immediately following Afghanistan’s presidential
runoff election where the national mood was high. Afghanistan has seen
the formation of the National Unity Government after a contentious
election process, a deteriorating economy in the face of declining
international aid and foreign military spending, and the full assumption
of security responsibilities by Afghan forces amid increasing attacks by
armed opposition groups.

“Afghanistan experienced the impact of the three simultaneous
security, political, and economic transitions in 2015,”
said Abdullah
, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in
Afghanistan. Against this intensely challenging backdrop, the
2015 survey reflects Afghans’ understandable concerns, and a frustration
that more progress isn’t being made. The results show increased
skepticism in the government’s ability to effectively address these
challenges. The survey is also a clear signal to the international
community and regional neighbors that steadiness, patience, and support
are what’s needed as Afghanistan struggles to achieve peace and stability

A decline in optimism and a growing sense of fear

This year’s survey shows that Afghan optimism about the overall
direction of the country declined to the lowest point in a decade, after
steadily rising through 2014. More than half of all Afghans (57.5%) say
the country is moving in the wrong direction. The number of Afghans who
say they are afraid for their personal safety is at the highest recorded
level (67.4%) since the survey began. The survey also reveals that the
growing perception among Afghans that the Afghan National Security
Forces need foreign support to operate—in June 2015, 82.8% of Afghans
say the Afghan National Army needs foreign support; 80.1% say the Afghan
National Police needs assistance; and 70.4% say the Afghan Local Police
needs foreign support—all up from 2014. ISIL/ISIS has had an impact on
Afghans’ perceptions of their safety: nearly three out of four
respondents say they have heard of ISIL/ISIS and 40.3% of all Afghans
say the group poses a threat.

Afghans are less confident in their public institutions

Public opinion of Afghanistan under the NUG is mixed—the proportion who
say the national government is doing a good job has fallen to 57.8%,
down from 75.3% in 2014 when election promises of improvements in
governance and services contributed to a sense of hope. The proportion
of Afghans who say they are satisfied with the democratic process in
Afghanistan has also declined, from 73.1% in 2014 to 57.2% in 2015—an
all-time low. At a local level, the number of Afghans who say they can
impact local government decisions has also decreased, from 55.9% in 2014
to 44.5% in 2015. And despite government efforts to curb corruption,
89.9% of Afghans say corruption is a major problem in their daily lives,
the highest percentage reported since 2004.

Afghans still unsatisfied with delivery and provision of public

Long-term survey data since 2004 shows that Afghans have seen progress
in the delivery of basic government services. In particular,
satisfaction with electricity and drinking water have steadily
increased, but satisfaction with most services dipped between 2014 and
2015. 56.3% of Afghans say public services—electricity, roads, drinking
water, education, healthcare, and water for irrigation—are the most
common problem Afghans face on a local level, and cited as one of the
major problems facing the country as a whole. When asked about a range
of public services in 2015, 71.8% of Afghans report the highest level of
satisfaction with access to drinking water, a long-term improvement
since 2006. Education is absolutely crucial for Afghans—and 67.8% of
respondents report satisfaction with the quality of education for
children in their area but satisfaction for education has decreased in
all regions in 2015 compared to 2014.

“The annual survey provides a picture of a nation undergoing
extraordinary change, and the concerns, hopes, and experiences that
accompany such change,”
said David
D. Arnold
, The Asia Foundation’s President. “Year after year, the
survey reveals that the delivery of basic public services—health,
education, roads, drinking water, sanitation—are crucial to people’s
perceptions of their government’s capability, and are an antidote to
extremism, instability, and vulnerability.”

Youth cite unemployment and illiteracy as biggest challenges; the
increasing availability of media and access to information seen as
bright spot

Nearly half of Afghanistan’s population is under age 18, one of the
largest youth bulges in the world. As foreign aid declines, Afghans say
unemployment (71.4%) and illiteracy (26.5%) are the two biggest problems
facing their youth. A source of optimism is Afghanistan’s expanding
media sector and increasing availability of sources of information from
around the world, which continues to shape public opinion. Media (66.6%)
remains the most trusted institution alongside religious leaders
(64.3%), and ahead of government institutions and NGOs. In 2015, 62.1%
of Afghan households own a television, a number that has almost doubled
in the last eight years. A majority (82.3%) report owning at least one
mobile phone in their household, compared to 41.5% in 2007; and 21.0%
report having someone in their household who has access to the internet.

Women are aware of their rights but still limited by unemployment and

This year included many milestones, opportunities, and disappointments
for Afghan women. On the positive side, 2015 saw wins for women in
Afghan politics: the cabinet now includes four female ministers and the
government appointed two new female provincial governors. Afghan women
are increasingly aware of their rights and know which institutions to
contact in a domestic conflict. Nearly all Afghans (93.6%) support
women’s equal access to education in Islamic madrasas, and a high
proportion support equal opportunities at the primary school (84.5%),
high school (82.8%) level, and at the university level (73.8%). However,
the Farkhunda case and the recent insurgent attacks against educated and
politically active women in Kunduz illustrate the serious challenges
Afghan women face. As in previous years, Afghans list education and
illiteracy (20.4%) and unemployment/lack of job opportunities (11.3%) as
the two largest problems facing women.

Access survey data sets and infographics at
the conversation at #AfghanSurvey.

The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan

Asia Foundation
 is a nonprofit international development
organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and
developing Asia. The Asia Foundation began working in Afghanistan in
1954 and re-opened its Kabul office in 2002. Since then, the Foundation
has assisted the central and provincial government and supporting Afghan
citizens to create a stable, prosperous society. Programs focus on the
development of subnational governance; strengthen key executive branch
agencies; and support programs in civic education, women’s empowerment,
education, Islam and development, and free and fair elections.


The Asia Foundation
In San Francisco:
Eelynn Sim,
Washington D.C. and New York:

Brent Jones 917-280-6217