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.

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