World

Karzai Faces Steep Climb to Curb Perceptions of Corruption

by Julie Ray and Rajesh Srinivasan

Pre-election surveys show Afghans perceive widespread government corruption

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Hamid Karzai last week vowed to remove the "dark stain" of corruption from Afghanistan in his second five-year term. Gallup surveys in Afghanistan underscore the enormity of the challenge Karzai faces in keeping this promise. Roughly 8 in 10 Afghans (81%) interviewed in June before the fraud-marred August election said corruption is widespread throughout the country's government.

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In the contentious post-election environment in which Karzai starts his new term, concrete efforts to honor this pledge may help resurrect some of his credibility among disaffected Afghans. But to do this, Gallup's surveys suggest the president will need to seriously tackle graft in his country, as well as his previous administration's record. At the time of the survey, about 7 in 10 (69%) Afghans continued to say the government is not doing enough to fight corruption -- essentially unchanged from 2008.

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In addition, few Afghans told Gallup in June this year, as they did in December 2008, that corruption levels were lower than they were five years ago when they first elected Karzai. Most residents said corruption levels in the country are about same (28%) or higher (50%). They were less likely in June than in December to say levels are higher, but this is largely attributable to more Afghans saying levels were "about the same" or that they didn't have an opinion.

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The percentage of Afghans who said government corruption is widespread may seem high, and it is higher than the world median of 72% on this measure, but Afghans aren't the most likely around the world to espouse this view. Afghans' perceptions about government corruption are, in fact, similar to some of their regional neighbors, including India (82%) and Nepal (81%).

But the number of Afghans who said they were personally faced a bribe situation in the last year does stand out and helps illustrate why corruption may be difficult to dislodge. About one in three Afghans (34%) said they found themselves in a situation in which they had to give a bribe or a present to solve a problem, which is the highest percentage in South Asia and one of the highest in the world. It is also up from 26% in 2008.

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Bottom Line

A growing chorus of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, is calling for the newly re-elected Karzai to make serious efforts to eradicate corruption a top priority in Afghanistan. If Karzai keeps his promise to fight corruption, he may not only have the chance to bolster international confidence in his governance, but also to improve his track record with an Afghan public that perceives government corruption as widespread and past efforts to fight it as insufficient.

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For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact worldpollpartners@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in June 2009 in Afghanistan. For results based on the sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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