The Asia Foundation, a U.S-based think tank with offices in Kabul, surveyed more than 6,000 Afghan adults chosen by a random sample from June 17 to July 6.
The 231-page report on the results of the survey finds 42 percent of the respondents felt the country was headed in the right direction. In 2004, that sentiment was held by 64 percent of the population, though that level dropped to 38 percent in 2008.
Respondents said their optimism stemmed from improvements in the security situation, reconstruction and women's rights.
Improvements in optimism in the security situation, however, were slight, with 64 percent of those surveyed noting positive developments compared with 62 percent in 2008. The Asia Foundation says, however, considerations should be made to restrictions on the movement of its researchers.
Of those surveyed, 51 percent said they feared for their safety, though as many as 60 percent expressed similar concerns in the southern provinces.
The U.S. military announced Tuesday that eight American soldiers were killed when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in the south of the country.
Though the survey was conducted prior to the August elections, the Asia Foundation found the majority of the Afghan population was afraid to vote. Most, however, felt voting was key to national improvement.
The Asia Foundation cited a sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.