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Cablegate: Poll Shows Voters Upbeat On Elections

VZCZCXRO8034
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2897 3031221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291221Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6024
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 002897

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: POLL SHOWS VOTERS UPBEAT ON ELECTIONS

1. (SBU) The Asia Foundation on October 28 published its
fourth annual nationwide survey of Afghan public opinion.
Media coverage has focused on the finding that security is
the main reason for greater overall pessimism among Afghans;
while a plurality of 38 percent of believe the country is
moving in the right direction, the trend is down
significantly from 2004, when 64 percent shared this view.
Looking ahead to presidential and provincial council
elections in 2009, however, Afghans show a resilient
optimism. According to the survey of 6593 Afghans across the
nation's 34 provinces, 72 percent are confident that the
government will competently organize the elections. The
Independent Election Commission (IEC) trails only the Afghan
National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) among
government institutions earning the public's trust.

2. (SBU) When asked, 77 percent of survey respondents say
they plan to vote -- although such survey results typically
exceed voter turnout. Still, more voter education would help
the almost 50 percent who admit they do not know how to
register or vote. Among media for such public outreach
efforts, radio reaches 83 percent of this population, equally
in urban and rural areas.

3. (SBU) This enthusiasm for elections draws on broad
support for democracy as a system of government: 76 percent
believe democracy is better than any other system. Most --
68 percent -- are satisfied with democracy in Afghanistan.
Afghans widely expect democracy will bring peace and freedom,
and also less corruption. Sixty-six percent think a country
can both adhere to Islamic values and have a democratic
system of government.

4. (SBU) The survey results suggest most Afghans have a
solid grasp of the idea of elections as a mechanism of
accountability to voters. Increasingly willing to criticize
this government's performance on combating corruption,
improving security, and responding to growing economic
pressures, Afghans are still confident their vote will make a
difference -- 68 percent of respondents say yes, only a
slight drop from 72 percent in 2007. This year 66 percent of
respondents feel they can significantly influence government
decisions, an increase of 17 percent since 2006.

5. (SBU) Security is the pivot for overall optimism or
pessimism about Afghanistan's future, and the main reason for
the greater overall pessimism that media reports of its
survey have flagged. Responses vary greatly, however, by
region. The south, unsurprisingly, has markedly greater
concern about security and markedly less optimism about the
future. At the national level, security is the top issue for
36 percent, followed by unemployment for 31 percent and high
prices for 22 percent. At the local level, a majority of
Afghans say they most want the government to provide, in rank
order, electricity, water, roads, and health clinics -- then
security. The greatest concerns of women are illiteracy (45
percent) and lack of rights (24 percent.) Only in the
southwest does security move ahead on this list, but still
behind electricity. Among the 23 percent who do not plan to
vote, security concerns (25 percent) trail apathy (33
percent.)

6. (SBU) The complete survey report, which covers additional
topics, is available on line at asiafoundation.org.
WOOD

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