Ethnicity is an additional factor: At 49 percent support for the U.S. presence is lowest among Pashtuns, who predominate in the South and East (including the Taliban's home turf), than it is among the less-conservative Tajiks (66 percent) or other ethnic groups, among whom a combined 74 percent support the presence of U.S forces.
Combining these and other factors in a regression analysis demonstrates the strength with which each variable independently predicts views of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. As last year, the single biggest predictor is blame on U.S./ISAF forces for civilian casualties. And as many Afghans blame ISAF for these casualties as blame anti-government forces.
While that's a negative element, conversely, blame on the Taliban for the country's violence is the strongest positive predictor of support for the U.S. presence. And there are other factors -- ratings of living conditions, development efforts, the extent of foreign aid, the affordability of fuel and food, concerns about corruption and ethnicity all also independently predict support for the U.S. presence, if less strongly so.
WOMEN -- Women's rights are a complex issue in Afghanistan; in addition to this year's drop in positive ratings of such rights, there are mixed results in attitudes on just what those rights are. As in the past, large majorities, 87 percent apiece, support girls' education and women voting. But many fewer support these "strongly," 59 and 56 percent, respectively. Overall support for women holding jobs outside the home is lower, 69 percent, and just 40 percent strong; for women holding government office, 64 percent, and just 32 percent strong.
Underlining cultural differences between Afghanistan and the West, two other items score far lower: Just 50 percent of Afghans support women leaving their home, but staying in their village or neighborhood, outside the presence of a male relative; and just 38 percent support an unescorted woman traveling outside her village or neighborhood. Only 21 and 15 percent, respectively, support these strongly.
Also, 54 percent of Afghans in this poll say the decision to wear the burka ? the body-covering outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions ? should be made not by a woman, but by her husband or father.
There are significant differences by urban/rural status, as well as by sex, in these views. For example, 60 percent of urban women say wearing the burka should be a woman's decision, but just about half of rural women (51 percent) and urban men (46 percent) agree, and that drops to 33 percent of rural men. Similarly, 80 percent of urban women say a woman should be able to go outside her home, but stay within her village or neighborhood, without a male escort; that falls to 56 percent of rural women, 53 percent of urban men and just 37 percent of rural men.
Further marking the challenges facing women, while 86 percent of Afghans report that there's a boys' school operating in their area, many fewer, 67 percent, say there's a girls' school. Ten percent say there had been a girls' school that was closed; threats or intimidation by the Taliban are given as the most common reason.