Afghanistan Poll: Where Things Stand 2010

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Most Afghans, 73 percent, define the payment of money or gifts in exchange for favorable treatment as corruption. But that leaves more than a quarter who say otherwise, mainly either calling it acceptable (8 percent) or saying it depends on the circumstances. Slightly more than a quarter say they personally have been asked for money in exchange for favorable treatment by a provincial government official (27 percent); 21 percent say the same about a police bribe. But far fewer, 7 percent, report such behavior from members of the Afghan army.

Among other motivations, self-interest might encourage Afghan President Hamid Karzai to try to limit corruption: His job approval rating is 17 points lower among people who've been shaken down by a corrupt official.

TALIBAN -- U.S. officials have suggested that corruption may push Afghans into the arms of the Taliban, and when Afghans are asked why some people may support the Taliban, 71 percent say "too much corruption in the government" might be a reason. But it's important to note that only 11 percent say support for the Taliban is strong in their area, or that they personally support it.

Indeed the Taliban remain highly unpopular. Eighty-nine percent see the group unfavorably. Just 9 percent of Afghans would rather have the Taliban ruling the country -- up from 1 percent in 2005, but still very low. And 64 percent call the Taliban the biggest danger facing Afghanistan -- 50 points more than the next highest response, drug traffickers.

Nonetheless, as noted, support for negotiations with the Taliban has steadily increased since 2007, with nearly three-quarters now favoring a negotiated settlement. However, this support is conditional -- just 37 percent call themselves "very" willing to support a settlement in general, and if it ceded control over some provinces to the Taliban, 61 percent say they'd oppose it.

The Taliban have a history of repressive treatment of women, and women are 17 points less apt than men to express general support for an agreement with the group. Notably, only 49 percent of urban women say they'd back a deal with the Taliban, vs. 84 percent of urban men. (It's 71 percent vs. 58 percent among rural men vs. women.) Fewer urban men or women alike, two in 10, say they'd accept territorial concessions to the Taliban; that rises to four in 10 rural residents.

Reports of Taliban activity remain disturbing; 35 percent report Taliban killings in their area, 30 percent bombings, 27 percent burning of schools or government buildings, and 24 percent report the delivery of threatening "night letters" from the Taliban.

While many of these levels are similar to previous years, an index measuring six individual types of Taliban activity is up overall -- from an average of 1.56 items reported early last year to 1.79 this year. The index of Taliban activity is up by a statistically significant margin in four regions, and essentially steady in three; it's down in just one, the Southwest, led by a steep decline in Helmand.

Nationally, among individual items, there's been a 7-point rise, to 24 percent, in the number of Afghans who report people in their area giving food or money to the Taliban. Some of that, however, may be forced rather than voluntary; one of the leading reasons given for people supporting the Taliban, cited by 68 percent, is that they are forced or threatened.

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