Where Things Stand: ABC News Polls in Afghanistan and Iraq

The latest poll by ABC News and its media partners in Afghanistan is the network's sixth there since 2005, produced as part of its award-winning "Where Things Stand" series. The project also included six national public opinion surveys in Iraq from 2004 to 2009.

The network's coverage of these surveys has won two news Emmy awards, the first in the history of the Emmys to cite public opinion polls. In May 2010 the series was honored with the Policy Impact Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which called it "a stellar example of high-impact public opinion polling at its finest."

Each of these surveys has been conducted via face-to-face interviews, in Dari, Pashto, Arabic and Kurdish, by trained interviewers with random national samples of Afghan and Iraqi adults. Question subjects have ranged from living conditions and experience of violence to personal aspirations, economic and emotional well-being and political and social attitudes.

The surveys have detailed the contours of public opinion in the wake of the U.S.-led invasions of these two countries, providing an essential element to public understanding of conditions there and helping to inform the debate over U.S. and international policy. Over time, the results in each country have traced the aftermath of U.S. and international involvement through success and setback alike.

In Afghanistan, the first ABC News survey found difficult living conditions but strong support for the U.S. invasion ousting the Taliban, and high expectations for future development. ABC's subsequent surveys through January 2009 found growing frustration with the pace of development, continued and growing experience of violence and lessened objections to the Taliban in some areas. The December 2009 poll showed sharp improvements in public views -- buoyed by political, economic and military efforts -- but significant challenges still remaining. The latest poll, released Dec. 6, 2010, found another downturn in support for the U.S. presence and performance alike, as Taliban activity spread and economic challenges mounted.

These data have underscored the link between violence levels, development efforts, the presence of both U.S. and Afghan forces and support for their mission. They've shown, for example, that blame on U.S. and NATO forces for civilian casualties is the single strongest predictor of opposition to the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The surveys in Iraq found initial support for the U.S. invasion, but of a more grudging nature, with sharp differences between Shiite and Sunni Arabs and Kurds in the north. What followed was an increasing spiral of despair as the country descended into sectarian strife, peaking in early 2007; then some improvement as violence subsided in the wake of the surge of U.S. forces and the arrangement of Sunni participation in security efforts. The last poll, in February 2009, found dramatic advances in public attitudes, with improved security and rising economic well-being boosting public confidence and bolstering support for democracy.

Each of these surveys employed rigorous area-probability sampling based on the latest available population data, with randomized household and respondent-selection procedures and back-checks for quality control. They've been supported with photos and video from interviews in the field, and in some cases with journal entries from interviewers describing their sometimes-harrowing field work experiences.

Ensuring global distribution of the results, ABC News invited international media partnership in these projects. The BBC or BBC World Service participated in five of the Afghanistan polls, ARD German TV in four, and The Washington Post in the latest. Each of the Iraq polls was co-sponsored by the BBC, and individual projects also included the ARD, the Japanese network NHK, Time magazine, USA Today and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.

ABC News has earned eight Emmy nominations and two Emmy awards for these polls, winning "Best Story in a Regularly Scheduled Newscast" awards for its coverage of the April 2004 and March 2007 polls in Iraq. Coverage of the 2005 polls in Iraq and Afghanistan received the inaugural Iowa Gallup Award for Excellent Journalism Using Polls from the University of Iowa School of Journalism and The Gallup Organization; and the 2006 National Council on Public Polls award for Excellence in Media Coverage of Polls. AAPOR's 2010 Policy Impact Award cited the full series of Iraq and Afghanistan polls through December 2009.

ABC's Afghanistan surveys are conducted by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR), a Kabul-based firm co-owned by D3 Systems (the first three, in conjunction with Charney Research of New York). ABC's last four surveys in Iraq were conducted by D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul. The first two Iraq polls were conducted by Oxford Research International.

Design, management and analysis of the latest Afghanistan poll was provided by Langer Research Associates of New York.

Individual details of these surveys follow.

AFGHANISTAN

2010 Field dates: Oct. 29-Nov. 13, 2010 Details: 1,691 interviews via 227 sampling points, oversamples in Balkh, Bamiyan, Farah, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Nuristan, Paktia, Panjshir and Wardak provinces. Media partners: ABC/BBC/ARD/Washington Post Field work: Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Design, management and analysis: Langer Research Associates, New York Analysis Photo slideshow Interviewer journal Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

Late 2009 Field dates: Dec. 11-23, 2009 Details: 1,534 interviews via 194 sampling points, oversamples in Balkh, Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar and Wardak provinces Media partners: ABC/BBC/ARD Field work: Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Analysis Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

Early 2009 Field dates: Dec. 30, 2008-Jan. 12, 2009 Details: 1,534 interviews via 194 sampling points, oversamples in Balkh, Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar and Wardak provinces Media partners: ABC/BBC/ARD Field work: Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2007 Field dates: Oct. 28-Nov. 7, 2007 Details: 1,377 interviews via 176 sampling points, oversamples in Balkh, Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz and Nangarhar provinces Media partners: ABC/BBC/ARD Field work: Charney Research and Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Analysis Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2006 Field dates: Oct. 14-19, 2006 Details: 1,036 interviews via 118 sampling points Media partners: ABC/BBC WS Field work: Charney Research and Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Analysis PDF with full questionnaire

2005 Field dates: Oct. 8-18, 2005 Details: 1,039 interviews via 104 sampling points Media sponsor: ABC News Field work: Charney Research and Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, Kabul Analysis Photo slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

IRAQ

2009 Field dates: Feb. 17 - 25, 2009 Details: 2,228 interviews via 446 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city, Mosul and Sadr City in Baghdad. Media partners: ABC/ BBC/NHK Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2008 Field dates: Feb. 12 - 20, 2008 Details: 2,228 interviews via 461 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city, Mosul and Sadr City in Baghdad.

Media partners: ABC/ BBC/ARD/NHK Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2007 Field dates: Aug. 17-24, 2007 Details: 2,212 interviews via 457 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city and Sadr City in Baghdad Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul, Turkey. Analysis Interviewer journal Photo slideshow Chart slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2007 Field dates: Feb. 25-March 5, 2007 Details: 2,212 interviews via 458 sampling points, oversamples in Anbar province, Basra city, Kirkuk city and Sadr City in Baghdad Media partners: ABC/USA Today/ BBC/ARD Field work: D3 Systems of Vienna, Va., and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul Analysis Interviewer journal 1 and Interviewer journal 2 Photo slideshow PDF with full questionnaire

2005 Field dates: Oct. 8-Nov. 22, 2005 Details: 1,711 interviews via 135 sampling points, oversample in Anbar province Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK/Time/Der Spiegel Field work: Oxford Research International Analysis Photo slideshow PDF with full questionnaire 2004 Field dates: Feb. 9-28, 2004 Details: 2,737 interviews via 223 sampling points Media partners: ABC/BBC/NHK/ARD Field work: Oxford Research International PDF with full questionnaire Photo slideshow