KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghans are increasingly uncertain about their future, less confident in their government and more pessimistic than before on issues such as security, corruption, and rising unemployment, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
The annual survey by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation has a record number of 65.9 percent of Afghans polled saying their country is moving in the wrong direction, up from 57.5 percent the previous year.
By contrast, 29.3 percent of Afghans polled said they believe their country is moving in the right direction — down from 36.7 percent in 2015 and the lowest level since the foundation started the surveys in 2004.
It also reveals that Afghans in 2016 were more dissatisfied with the economy.
The foundation polled 12,658 Afghan men and women in interviews conducted between Aug. 31 and Oct. 1 in all 34 provinces of the country. The poll, released in Kabul on Wednesday, has a 1.6 percent margin of error.
The survey has Afghan people in 2016 being more pessimistic than ever before — a mood that appears to reflect a sustained change in sentiment related to perceptions of security, the economy, and government achievements, the foundation said.
Afghanistan has been facing major political and security challenges since the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of 2014. Also, President Ashraf Ghani has been dealing with a stepped-up insurgency by the Taliban seeking to topple the government as well as an affiliate of the Islamic State group, which emerged over a year ago and has expanded its footprint, especially in the country's east.
Some Afghans reflected the survey's findings in comments to The Associated Press.
Ali Yawar, a 38-year-old carpet weaver, said he hasn't had much business in the past two years.
"I should say that all businesses have dropped, not only carpets," he said, adding that every man wants want better security and job opportunities so he can stand on his own two feet — and not look for charity.
"Afghanistan is emerging from decades of war and conflict. For the moment, a sense of personal safety and empowerment remains elusive," Abdullah Ahmadzai, the Asia Foundation's representative in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying in the survey's findings. At the launch of the survey in Kabul, Ahmadzai said that 2016 has been the largest survey in terms of the number of Afghans that the foundation polled but that it also recorded the lowest levels of public optimism.
The highest rate of optimism was recorded in 2013, when 58.2 percent of Afghans said the country was moving in the right direction.
The 2016 survey also found that more people consider lack of education opportunities and illiteracy as the biggest problems facing Afghan women — 36.1 percent of those polled, up from 20.4 percent in 2015.
"The findings this year illustrate Afghans' dissatisfaction with their government, job growth, and household finances," Ahmadzai said.
According to the survey, since 2007, insecurity has been the most commonly given reason for why the country is moving in the wrong direction, followed by unemployment, corruption, bad economy and bad government.
The Asia Foundation's annual survey is the longest-running and broadest nationwide survey of Afghan attitudes and opinions.
Since 2004, it has polled more than 87,000 Afghan men and women from all walks of life, providing a unique portrait of evolving public perceptions of wide-ranging issues such as security, economy, governance and government services, elections, media, women's issues, and migration.