Case Study 8

28 Mar

The two Afghanistan stories are examples of the line editors have to toe with balance in articles. Without the proper context it would be easy to write off the poll as indicative of a positive outlook for Afghanistan, but the fact is that only 44 percent of Afghans in the poll were “optimistic.” That might be a plurality, but it’s not a majority, and portraying it as such will just lead to accusations of bias.

On the other hand, it’s important to look through all the bullets from the survey results in the first article. The news wasn’t all bad; if I had more space to work with and I felt the focus could be wider I might include some more about the approval for the army. This would of course be contingent on my finding of a real representative of Afghan opinion on the institution. One guy who works at an institute probably hasn’t asked the average Afghan resident what he or she thinks of the army.

Afghans Losing Faith in Nation’s Path, Poll Shows

-New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghans have lost a considerable amount of confidence in the direction of their country over the past two years, according to an extensive nationwide survey released Wednesday.

The number of people with negative or mixed views on the trajectory of the country has grown significantly since a similar survey in 2004, according to the Asia Foundation, which conducted both surveys. While Afghans were still more than twice as likely (44 percent to 21 percent) to think their country was headed in the right direction than the wrong direction, “optimistic” reactions dropped 20 percent.

The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, interviewed more than 6,000 people from June through August in all but two of Afghanistan’s provinces. The main goal of the survey was to determine Afghans’ attitudes toward the political process, public policy and development progress.

The poll, financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, suggests that Afghans are forming divergent views as NATO forces battle a pro-Taliban insurgency in southern and eastern provinces and the violence begins to threaten other places that previously had been considered safe.

Security was the main source of optimism among those who said the country was headed in the right direction. But among those who expressed pessimism, more than half said the biggest problem was a lack of security, the Taliban threat and warlords.

Corruption was less of a concern for respondents than unemployment and lack of services, yet 77 percent of respondents said it was a problem nationally, and 60 percent said it had increased. 51 percent of those who dealt with public health care officials reported paying bribes for health service.

Afghans also had contradictory attitudes toward political tolerance: 85 percent said the government should allow peaceful opposition, but 64 percent said they would not allow political parties they personally opposed to meet in their areas.

George Varughese, who directed the poll for the Asia Foundation, agrees that some of the results “appear to challenge the current wisdom on issues in Afghanistan,” but says, “We feel it is a solid, important piece of work, completed during a difficult time.”

<insert NYT graphic here>

Information from a USA Today article was used in this report.

Word count: 350

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