Gallup Poll: Plurality of Afghans Prefer Strongman Over Democracy

By Terence P. Jeffrey | December 14, 2010 | 2:14 PM EST

In this photo taken on Dec. 12, 2010, an Afghan police officer searches a man at a check point in Kandahar south of Kabul, Afghanistan.(AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

Newly released polling numbers from a Gallup survey conducted in Afghanistan in June 2009 indicate that as late as that date—almost eight years after U.S. forces occupied that country and overthrew its Muslim fundamentalist Taliban regime--more Afghans believed their country would be best governed by a strong man as opposed to a democracy.

“When asked about the ‘best way to govern’ their nation, 31% of Afghans said they preferred having a strong leader who does not need to bother with parliament and elections,” said a Gallup report published Nov. 28, 2010 and posted online on Dec. 1.

“Twenty-two percent said that experts, not the government, should make decisions according to what they think is best for the country,” said the report.  “Yet more than one-quarter of Afghans (27%) said having a democratic political system was the best way to govern Afghanistan.”

Gallup said that it asked 1,000 Afghans the question of what was the “best way to govern” their country in face-to-face interviews conducted in Afghanistan between June 4-16, 2009. The face-to-face interviews were done in the Dari and Pashto languages. The results for this survey question were first published by Gallup on Nov. 28, 2010 in a report entitled, “Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations: Assessing the ‘New Beginning.” The report followed up on “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Think,” a book published by Gallup in 2008.

The Nov. 28 Gallup report also said that another survey of 1,000 Afghans conducted in October 2009 indicated that many people in the country were not satisfied with the way democracy was working there.

“Furthermore, few Afghans said that they were satisfied with the way democracy was working in their country,” said the Gallup report. “In October 2009, 6% said they were ‘very satisfied,’ 18% said they were ‘somewhat satisfied,’ and 28% said they were ‘neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.' A plurality (46%) of Afghans either said they were ‘somewhat dissatisfied’ (30%) or ‘very dissatisfied’ (16%).” Gallup said the results for this question had “remained nearly identical since late 2008.”

By contrast, a majority of Afghans—55%--told Gallup that things have gotten better in their country since the overthrow of the Taliban.

President Obama was meeting Tuesday with his national security team to discuss the administration’s strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan since the president ordered an increase in the U.S. deployment there last year. On Thursday, there will be a public release of the review, according to the White House, and President Obama will make a statement about it.

“Well, we have progress and we have challenges,” White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said at Monday’s press briefing. “That is something that is talked much about when we go into these meetings in the Situation Room. Obviously there will be another meeting before the review is released, so I don't want to get ahead of where we are on that. But I think the President feels confident that we're on track on where we should be and that we can certainly meet our commitments to begin a conditions-based drawdown of our forces next July.”

(To see Gallup's full report “Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations: Assessing the ‘New Beginning,” click here and then click the hyperlinked title of the report in Gallup's analysis.)