Afghanistan Poll: Where Things Stand 2010


But the sharpest changes in ratings of local conditions are negative ones. There's been an 11-point drop in positive ratings of support for agriculture, to 34 percent, down from 45 percent, a critical issue in a country that's more than three-quarters rural. And there's also been an 11-point decline since late last year in positive ratings of "the rights of women" locally, to 52 percent, down from 63 percent last year and 71 percent in 2006.

The reach of the repressive Taliban may be a factor in views of women's rights. Among people who report no Taliban activity in their area, 61 percent rate the rights of women there positively. But among those who report at least five out of six Taliban activities locally, fewer than half as many -- 28 percent -- say the rights of women in their area are good. The rights of women also are rated better in urban rather than rural areas, by a 22-point margin, 70 percent vs. 48 percent.

Meanwhile ratings of the supply of electricity, the availability of food and medical care and local schools have all held essentially steady since last year, albeit without further improvement. Underscoring the continued needs, just 37 percent rate their supply of electricity positively.

Combining these in an index, positive ratings of local living conditions have declined overall, with sharp gains in Helmand more than offset elsewhere.

CORRUPTION/ALIENATION -- There are a range of challenges beyond security and economic concerns, with notable levels of alienation and perceived corruption and fraud among them. Strikingly, for example, just 40 percent say their country has a system of rules and laws that reflects what most Afghans want. And among those who say there's no such system now, three-quarters don't see any movement in that direction.

Most, 56 percent, describe the recent parliamentary elections as mostly fraudulent rather than mostly fair. And while 58 percent nonetheless are satisfied with the outcome, that's far below the 75 percent who were satisfied with the results of the presidential election in 2009.

If they had a problem with a government official, just three in 10 Afghans think filing an official complaint would help the situation; about as many think it would make things worse. And huge numbers continue to call corruption a problem at the provincial, national and local levels alike -- 93, 88 and 85 percent, respectively.

Ratings of local corruption, though, are down by 10 points from late last year, and the number calling it a "big" problem, which spiked up by 13 points last year, has spiked back down by 26 points this year. Another result also indicates some progress in addressing the extent of corruption: The number who say it's increasing has eased from 50 percent in early 2009 to 42 percent late last year and a bit further, to 37 percent, now -- a 13-point drop overall.

There's still plenty of room for progress on corruption and efficiency more generally. On the former, 67 percent of Afghans believe that government officials are misdirecting foreign aid money for personal gain. And on the latter, among those who say foreign aid money is coming directly into their community, four in 10 also say it's being mainly wasted.

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