Views Improve Sharply in Afghanistan, Though Criticisms of the U.S. Stay High

ECONOMY/DEVELOPMENT – Economic and development advances are additional factors. After long delay, there are positive reports of development in this impoverished country. Fifty-five percent of Afghans now say they have electricity, up 15 points since 2007. From its low in 2007, there's been a 24-point gain in the number who rate their electrical supply positively – albeit just to 38 percent, indicating the continued need to develop power supply and delivery.

Fifty-six percent report new or rebuilt roads in their area in the past five years, up 21 points from 2007; the number who rate their local infrastructure positively has more than doubled since first measured in 2005. While access to medical care remains a problem, half report new or rebuilt health clinics, up 13 points from 2007. And, in a largely rural nation with heavy reliance on subsistence farming, positive ratings of support for agriculture – availability of seed, fertilizer and equipment – is up by 9 points in the past year, albeit just to 45 percent.

On the economy, while affordability of food and fuel remain significant problems, 45 percent of Afghans rate the national economy positively, up 12 points from a year ago. Fewer, 39 percent, rate their own financial situation positively, but that too is up, by 7 points. The availability of jobs and economic opportunities is still a challenge, rated positively by just four in 10, but that's up by 11 points in the past year.

Part of the improvement in economic attitudes may reflect aspirations; the Karzai government has announced a plan to raise teachers' salaries, encouraging some speculation that other public sector raises – army, police – may follow. Again, if they don't, positive views could be at risk.

In one sign of consumer advances – small in the grand scheme, but potentially powerful in its personal impact – the number of Afghans who report having a cell phone in their household has essentially doubled since 2005, from 31 percent then to 60 percent now.

SECURITY/LIVING CONDITIONS – There's also a continued sense that, whatever the problems, living conditions are better now than they were under the Taliban – 70 percent say so. Two-thirds also say the rights of women have improved; six in 10 report greater freedom to express political views. But fewer than half report better economic opportunities or security from crime and violence than in the Taliban days, underscoring these continued challenges.

Security, Opium, Women's Rights

Another result on security points the same way. In 2005, 72 percent of Afghans rated their personal security from crime and violence positively. A year ago that fell to 55 percent. Today it's still at 55 percent – stabilized, at least, but still well below its best, or where millions of Afghans clearly want it to be.

Afghans' better hopes for the future, as noted, could also reflect hopes that the renewed Western commitment will ultimately resolve their country's strife. Moreover, in addition to the U.S./NATO efforts, this poll find a 12-point rise in confidence in local commanders and their militia to provide security – a result that may reflect efforts by some local militia, called arbakai, to oppose the Taliban.

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