Reporting an Afghan poll

28 Mar

Just looking at the websites of The New York Times and USA Today shows they present their news in very different manners.

More so, looking at an Afghan poll inspired two very different ways to tell the story.

USA Today  offers a very basic approach. The story is in the details of how the poll was conducted, then the findings are simply listed. This is a very easy-t0-understand format, which is appropriate for their readership. They also included reactions to the poll from scholars, adding to the value of the story and aiding readers in interpreting the results.

Meanwhile, the New York Times chose to interpret the poll’s results for readers, rather than just listing numbers in a bulleted format. The article compares national and local statistics, showing different levels of responses. The article’s main lede, respondents’ feelings on the direction the country is headed, is highlighted by a graphic.


Compiled Story:

In what is billing as the widest opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan, the non-profit, San Francisco-based Asia Foundation surveyed 6,226 Afghans in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces over the summer.

The poll, financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, suggests that Afghans are surprisingly confident about the direction of their country even 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.

While the national mood remains positive on the whole, 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.

Security was the main source for 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.

Respondents listed the economy and unemployment as other big issues. Fifty-four percent said they felt more prosperous than they had under the Taliban, but 26 percent said they felt less well off. On a local level, unemployment was cited as the biggest problem, while security and a lack of infrastructure and basic services like electricity and water featured less prominently.

Corruption, which has become one of the main criticisms of the government, was less of a concern for respondents than unemployment and lack of services. When asked specifically if corruption was a problem nationally, 77 percent of respondents said it was, and 60 percent said it had increased.

The survey showed strong support for democratic elections, and strong approval of new national institutions, including the Afghan National Army, of which 87 percent approved, and the Afghan National Police, of which 86 percent approved. A similar amount expressed trust in the electronic media, and 57 percent in nongovernmental organizations, whose performance has often been criticized. The justice system, local militias and political parties were not trusted, the survey said.

Eighty-six percent supported equal rights for women. Freedom of speech also received wide support.

Deep respect for religion also was apparent. Sixty-one percent said religious leaders should be consulted on issues and problems. Sixty percent of those surveyed said an Islamic nation could attain democracy without becoming Westernized, while 35 percent said democracy challenged Islamic values.


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