Two years after the Taliban’s overthrow, the Asia Foundation (TAF) was worried.  Charged by USAID to prepare for Afghanistan’s 2004 election, they faced a host of unknowns.

Did Afghans favor the changes underway?  Did they want democracy? In a male-dominated society, would women vote? Did media reach the countryside? Lots of questions – and little time to the vote.

So TAF’s Jon Summers, who worked with us in Cambodia, asked for a national survey – in a country where none had ever been done.

Charney’s Solution:

We assessed the capacity of Afghan NGOs that had done local surveys and chose one — but it needed strengthening. We brought our own trainers and Indian experts, who understood how to sample South Asian villages. We worked closely with Asia Foundation staff to draft a questionnaire.

The trickiest moment: when the Afghan survey manager heard half his interviewers had to be female. (He had 15 men — and one woman.) He moaned and asked, “Do we have to?”
But he did it, recruiting staff around the country and bringing them to Kabul for training. The recruits –secondary schooled or better — passionately backed the project and helped refine the questionnaires.

They began with 32 qualitative interviews around the country, showing the feasibility of interviewing Afghans and the outlines of opinion.

Next came the poll. They fanned out to 29 of 32 provinces, doing 800 interviews.

They found broad support for the new government and the election.  But there was a catch:  women feared their men wouldn’t allow them to vote.  We proposed voter education for men – to let women vote!


Voter education by TAF and other organizations reached the vast majority of Afghans – and worked.  Turnout was 70%, including at least half the country’s women.

The survey was quoted around the globe, generating favorable attention for TAF.  Moreover, by proving polling possible in Afghanistan, it convinced USAID to fund TAF’s annual Afghan poll – now the country’s “gold standard” for research.

Read the full reference from John Summers of TAF
Read the in-depth interview report
Read press coverage of the report
Read the poll report
Read press coverage of the poll report
See our other Afghanistan resources

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