Afghanistan Poll: Where Things Stand 2010

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Among other possible reasons for Taliban support, 68 percent say it could be "because the Taliban are opposing the foreign forces" and the most, 77 percent, say it could be for religious reasons. Far fewer endorse the notion that the Taliban may be seen as better at delivering services -- just 39 percent think this is a reason some people may support the insurgency.

GOVERNMENT -- Most Afghans rate the work of the present government, Karzai himself, the provincial government, the police and the Afghan army positively, most at virtually the same levels as last year. The exception is that positive ratings of Karzai's performance have lost 9 points, albeit to a still-strong 62 percent. His personal favorability, as opposed to work performance, is higher still, unchanged at 82 percent favorable. (Across the spectrum, 93 percent of Afghans rate Osama bin Laden unfavorably.)

Eighty-one percent say the level of support for the Afghan army in their area is high, unchanged from last year; and 76 percent say local support for the police is strong - 6 points higher than last year, and a numerical high. Roughly two-thirds of Afghans rate the work of the police and army in their area positively, unchanged since last year and a sharp contrast to U.S. and NATO/ISAF ratings.

There's a slight positive shift, from a Western perspective, in views of what form of government is best for Afghanistan at this time. About as many prefer democracy, 37 percent, as an Islamic state, 39 percent. Last year preference for an Islamic state prevailed by 11 points. (The rest of Afghans, 23 percent, prefer a "strong leader" who rules for life with final say in politics.)

Regardless, nearly three-quarters of Afghans say the country's government should follow Islamic principles -- but they divide evenly on whether it should do so very strictly, or somewhat strictly. Men are 11 points more apt than women to favor "very strict" adherence.

Whatever their preference for government, and despite their concerns about fraud, 77 percent say they're confident a system of freely electing leaders can work in their country. But as with so many results, there's a caveat: Just 27 percent are "very" confident of it.

In another result with potential policy implications for the West, given its frustrations with Karzai, Afghans divide about evenly on whether they think a system of popular rules and laws can best be established through the national and provincial governments, or instead through tribal elders -- 52 percent pick the former, but 46 percent the latter.

There are telling divisions: Members of the more conservative Pashtun ethnic group favor leadership through elders, by 56-42 percent; this spikes to 73-25 percent in the East and 64-34 percent in the Southwest, both largely rural, Pashtun-dominated regions. Members of the other large ethnic group, Tajiks, favor leadership by government rather than elders, 58-41 percent. Preference for government also spikes in Kabul, in urban areas overall, and among those who say the central government has a strong presence in their area. Leadership by elders, in contrast, tends to be preferred by those who say the central government lacks a strong presence in their area, who oppose the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and who prefer an Islamic government.

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