Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Opinion Polls Reveal Security Concerns

By Mohammad Faisal Nawid






Opinion polls gauging the concerns of Afghans in the lead-up to the country's presidential election have revealed that security remains a major worry.

Sayed Yasin Hussaini, a spokesman for the consultancy group Democracy International, said two surveys had highlighted the public's worries about the continued threat of violence from insurgent groups.

"Our findings show that instability remains a serious challenge in Afghanistan," he told an IWPR debate held on March 19. "Half of respondents said they were worried by a lack of security, agreeing that it represented a major problem.

"Our other findings show that the public expected the election candidates to have announced more specific programmes.”

The IWPR debate was held before an audience of more than 50 male and female undergraduates studying at the privately-run Bakhtar University in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Fahim Hakim, a lecturer at the university, outlined to the audience why opinion polls are seen as so important to elections and discussed their potential impact.

“One of the obligations of pollsters is to ensure that surveys are not biased. Polls should merely provide the public with [a snapshot of] people’s views of the election," he told students. "They are common practice in democratic societies and help us examine and understand the public's expectations and criticisms. The aim of polls is to collect public opinion on a specific issue or event. Polls should put the same question to a large number of people in order to obtain clear results."

Hashmatullah Radfar, deputy head of the Electoral Media Commission, a body set up to monitor the Afghan press in the run-up to the April 5 vote, emphasised that strict standards needed to be upheld when conducting opinion polls. If the methodology was flawed, he said, the results were likely to be meaningless.

“If opinion polls are not carried out professionally, their results can be misleading and this can undermine the election process," he warned. "That is why the Electoral Media Commission has taken steps to prevent inadequate polling. However, we still support work which fairly reflects public opinion."

Mohammad Faisal Nawid is a student at Kabul University and an IWPR trainee.

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.