Reading Tea Leaves In Afghanistan


by Patrick Appel

Sameer Lalwani describes why has been so hard to poll the country ahead of it's election, which took place today:

Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world with an extremely low telecommunications penetration rate. According to the International Telecommunication Union, there is less than one fixed phone line per thousand people. The world average is about nineteen per thousand. Afghan mobile phone usage has increased exponentially in recent years to 29 per thousand but this still remains half the global average. This telecom divide means phone polling tends to favor wealthier urban constituents and under-sample rural areas. Pollsters can correct for this with face-to-face interviews (as the IRI and Glevum Associates did in their recent election polls) though they are more time consuming and expensive. But polling in a conflict-zone incurs new sampling biases by tending to over-sample safer and less-conflict ridden areas.

Renard Sexton compares 2004 polling to 2009 polling.

(Image: An Afghan man walks alongside an electoral billboard with the picture of incumbent president Hamid Karzai (C) and running mates Mohamad Qasim Fahim (L) and Karim Khalili (R) in Kabul on August 19, 2009. Taliban gunmen struck inside the heavily guarded Afghan capital yesterday, police said, as the Islamist militia waged a bloody countdown to the war-torn country's second presidential election. By Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)