Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Afghan Presidential Election – Second Round Glevum Face-to-Face Opinion Survey – Key Findings

Afghan Presidential Election – Second Round Glevum Face-to-Face Opinion Survey – Key Findings

  • June 12, 2014

By Andrew Garfield

Summary: In this second poll from Glevum Associates, results indicate that Ashraf Ghani has taken the lead (48%) over Abdullah Abdullah (45%) for the second round of voting, according to a face-to-face survey of 2,223 Afghans interviewed from June 4th to June 10th. When asked who would bring peace to Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani was again in the lead with 46% of likely voters choosing him, compared to 43% choosing Abdullah Abdullah. When asked who would be better dealing with corruption, again likely voters choose Ghani over Abdullah – 47% to 43%. When asked who will manage the economy better likely voters choose Ghani over Abdullah 48% to 42%.  And when asked who will lead to a better relationship with the United States Ghani was favored 48% to Abdullah 42%.  For the most part, candidates receive nearly the same percentages for the “vote” question as for policy questions. However, support for Abdullah appears to slightly soften when policy questions are asked.


My company, Glevum Associatesis proud to present a second large, company initiated and sponsored, public opinion survey conducted in Afghanistan from June 4th to June 10th 2014, ahead of the second round of the Afghan Presidential Election, which will be held on June 14th between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.  This Face-to-Face survey of 2,223 likely voters was undertaken in six key election battleground cities in Afghanistan – Balkh – Mazar-e-Sharif, Heart City, Kabul City, Kandahar City, Khost and Nangahar – Jalalabad City.  The primary aim of this poll is to determine who is the frontrunner in the second round of this vital election and to help deter further election fraud.  A likely voter is a respondent who told our interviewers that they intended to vote in the second round. 

Survey Information and Methodology

A face-to-face survey was conducted with 2,223 Afghans who plan to vote in the June 14, 2014 presidential runoff election.  A trusted research partner in Afghanistan was employed to conduct the interviews, which were undertaken in Dari and Pashtu.  This partner has undertaken more than 30 face-to-face polls for my company and has always executed field research to the highest ethical and methodological standards.

Respondents were first asked if they intend to vote in the June 14, 2014 runoff Presidential election in Afghanistan. If respondents answered that they did intend to vote, they were then asked five additional questions. If respondents indicated that they did not intend to vote, the interview ended.

We limited this survey to five questions to ensure that the survey could be completed in sufficient time to be published before the election.  The five additional questions were:

•Which candidate are you going to vote for?

•Which candidate do you think is more likely to bring peace to Afghanistan?

•Which candidate do you think will be better on corruption?

•Which candidate do you think will manage the economy better?

•Which candidate do you think will lead to a better relationship with America?

Our field team was asked to collect a specified number of interviews per city. Nahias or neighborhoods were randomly selected within each city. Approximately 20 interviews were conducted per Nahia.  The number of Nahias in the sample depended on the sample size. For example, in Kabul, 30 Nahias were randomly selected with about 20 interviews in each location for a total of 602 interviews.  After a Nahia was selected, a starting point within the Nahia was randomly chosen.  The first house at each starting point was then randomly selected.  Next, each third house was included in the sample.  One eligible person was interviewed in each household.

The margin of error is 2.08% at a 95% level of confidence.

This survey was conducted separately but simultaneously with the telephone survey that was released yesterday – June 10th 2014.  The reason for sponsoring two separate surveys, using different methodologies, was to ensure that we were able to provide the most comprehensive coverage with the limited resources we have available for this effort

Survey Limitations

Due to time constraints, respondents were not asked demographics questions such as gender or ethnicity.  For this survey, we were able to ask two more questions and more specific questions than for the telephone survey, because of the trust factor between the interviewer and the interviewee.  And, despite using two entirely different methods for each of these polls, it is reassuring that the results are entirely consistent with each other

Most Interesting Findings

Below are the most interest findings from this survey.

Candidates Support

The primary finding of this poll is that Ashraf Ghani has increased his level of support from the 31.5% that was officially announced for him in the first round, to 48% of likely voters in the face-to-face Glevum poll.  He is now the front-runner for the second round.  The percentage of likely voters interviewed in this poll who indicated that they would vote for Abdullah Abdullah was 45%.  This is exactly the same share of the vote he had in the first round.  Ghani received overwhelming support in Khost with 94% of respondents choosing him compared to only 2% who support Abdullah. However, in Herat, 21% said they would vote for Ghani whereas a significant majority (79%) supported Abdullah.  Interestingly, Abdullah had a slightly greater share of the vote in Kandahar than Ghani (48 to 41).   Interestingly, Abdullah secured slightly more votes (48%) in Pashtun dominated Kandahar City than did Ghani (42%)

A plurality of respondents (46%) felt that Ghani is more likely to bring peace to Afghanistan, with 43% indicating that Abdullah is more likely to bring peace.  Eleven percent did not offer an opinion. 

Most respondents in Khost and Nangarhar (87% and 82%, respectively) said Ghani is more likely to bring peace.  In comparison, most respondents in Herat and Balkh (69% and 58%, respectively) indicated that Abdullah is more likely to bring peace.

When asked who will be better dealing with corruption, again, Ghani and Abdullah are close but Ghani does have the lead (47% and 43%, respectively).

When asked who will manage the economy better, 48% favored Ghani compared to 42% who favored Abdullah.  Respondents in Kabul and Kandahar tend to be more unsure about who will better manage the economy. Two in ten (21%) of respondents in Kabul said they do not know or declined to answer who they thought would better manage the economy; in Kandahar, 13 percent gave those answers.

Likely voters are similarly divided about which candidate will lead to a better relationship with America, although Ghani has a lead here also, with 48% indicating Ghani and 42% choosing Abdullah. One in ten (10%) either did not know or refused to answer.

For the most part, candidates receive nearly the same percentages for the “vote” question as for policy questions.  However, support for Abdullah appears to slightly soften when policy questions are asked.


This 48-45 split in favor of Ghani suggests that he has consolidated the Pashtun vote (Pashtun are a plurality in Afghanistan) and that the Ghani/Dostum ticket has maintained their high level of support with ethnic Uzbeks. Ghani certainly seems to have gained significant momentum going into the last few days of the election, having substantially increased his likely share of the vote, up 16.5 points since the first round, as well as having gained a number of endorsements from former Presidential candidates (Hilal, Qayyum Karzai, Arsala), Ahmad Zia Massood, and key constituencies including religious leaders.

The telephone poll of 2,804 likely voters released yesterday (June 11th 2014) had Ghani on 49% and Abullah on 42%.  The consistency of the results of these two polls (Ghani 48/49 and Abdullah 45/43), which used different methods and which were executed over the same time period, strongly suggests that Ashraf Ghani is now the frontrunner in this election.     

Our two polls have Abdullah at 45% (Face to Face) or 43% (Telephone).  Based on these findings it seems likely that he has more or less maintained his share of the vote from the first round.  However, he has gained no momentum from the elimination of the other candidates and his campaign has secured no additional support amongst likely voters.  If anything, he may have fallen back a little since the first round.

Cleary, Abdullah is maintaining his share of the Tajik vote and that of other minorities but this poll suggests that he has not added to the limited Pashtun support that he enjoyed in the first ballot.  But, as the share of the likely vote in Pashtun dominated Kandahar City shows, he does still have some Pashtun support.  That said, in a fair and transparent election, unless Abdullah can secure a late and significant surge in Pashtun and Uzbek support, this poll and the other telephone poll suggests that he cannot reach 50.1% of the vote needed to win.

Ghani’s apparent success in picking up the support of voters who had previously supported eliminated candidates is not a surprise. This finding is consistent with a poll undertaken by ASCOR in March 2014, which suggested that Ghani was favored 57-34% over Abdullah by those who intended to vote for a different candidate in the first ballot.

The large differences in support for each candidate by city, is another indication that this election is likely to be decided along ethnic lines.  An election that splits the electorate down ethnic lines should favor Ghani/Dostum as they are a strongly Pashtun/Uzbek ticket.  However, that is very much dependent on a high turnout of Pashtun voters in particular. 

With between 7% (this poll) and 9% (Telephone poll) of likely voters still undecided, this election could still go either way but both polls do strongly suggest that Ashraf Ghani is now the frontrunner.  That said he still has work to do in the last days of campaigning to turn out and increase his core vote, in particular winning over some of those Pashtun who support Abdullah, in order for him to get over the 50.1% barrier.

With what will very probably be a very close election, the impact of fraud could be decisive, and it is therefore vital that this election is more closely monitored than ever. Another tainted and contested election would be disastrous for Afghanistan.   

Additional details of the survey can be found here.