KABUL (SW) – At least 58.2% of Afghans have indicated their country is moving in the wrong direction, according to a new survey released today by the Asia Foundation.
As per the study, Afghans report a slight uptick in optimism, with 36.1% of respondents saying the country is going in the right direction in 2019, up from 32.8% in 2018. Of Afghans who say they are optimistic, 26.3% point to “peace/end of war,” a significant increase from 16.4% last year.
At the same time, insecurity and economic uncertainty continue to be a concern for most Afghans; 84.4% say they would vote for a president who knows how to improve the economy, while 65.2% say they would vote for a president who accepts a peace agreement with the Taliban.
Peace talks with the Taliban are at the center of public attention. Given the importance of peace, elections, and reconciliation, new Survey questioned in 2019 ask Afghans what they might be willing to sacrifice to reach a peace deal, including the constitution, democratic elections, freedom of speech, and the presence of foreign military forces.
“Increased optimism around the peace talks along with persistent fears about insecurity and the economy continue to influence Afghan views,” said Abdullah Ahmadzai, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan. “Following the collapse of the talks and election delays (which took place after this year’s Survey fieldwork), prospects for a sustainable political settlement are unclear. More than ever, empirical data is a crucial resource for the future and development of Afghanistan.”
The Survey has shown over time that public optimism increases in any election year. In 2019, 36.1% of respondents say the country is going in the right direction, up slightly from 32.8% in 2018. Afghans who say the country is moving in the right direction cite improved security at 55.7% (up from 51.8% in 2018), and reconstruction/rebuilding/infrastructure at 48.6% (close to last year’s 47.9%).
Peace discussions hit a nerve for many Afghans envisioning a retreat to the Taliban era’s rules. Support for women’s educational opportunities and approval for women’s education has continued to climb this year, to 86.6%, up from 84.0% in 2018. A record high number of Afghans support women working outside the home, with 76.0% saying they agree, up from 70.3% in 2018. Afghans cite lack of educational opportunities as the biggest problem facing women (43.2%), followed by lack of rights (34.1%), lack of employment opportunities (24.1%), and violence (18.1%).