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Slow Decline in President’s Popularity

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Gallup Pakistan has carried out extensive surveys on the subject of the state and domestic politics. Perhaps the most important political issue in Pakistan is that of the involvement of the army in the politics and even more specifically, General Musharraf’s Presidency.
Polls were carried out in 2005 to assess President Musharraf’s popularity amongst the masses. In 2005, 17% of the people described the President’s overall performance as very good, 32% considered it to be good, 35% viewed it as average, 7% thought that it was bad and 8% described it as very bad. 3% of the people did not offer a definite response.
Similar questions, when put forward to the respondents in early 2006, indicated that the President’s popularity had declined a little. 11% of the people labeled his overall performance as very good, 29% thought of it as very good and 37% described it as average. At the other end of the spectrum, 11% considered the President’s performance to be bad and another 7% viewed it as very bad. 5% said that they did now know. The trend seems to be a consistent one as later that same year, 10% of the people said that President Musharraf’s performance was very good, 27% claimed it to be good, 31% asserted that it was average, 15% were of the opinion that it was bad and 16% considered it to be very bad.
In similar surveys conducted in 2006, 34% of the respondents claimed that were strongly in favor of the army steering clear of politics in the country. Another 46% favored this position somewhat while only 17% were not at all in favor of the separation between politics and the armed forces. At the same time, however, 45% were confident that the army would maintain its influence on the government after the upcoming elections, 27% believed that the army would lose its influence and 28% said that they were unsure. The majority of the people, standing at 48%, also wanted the President to relinquish his post after the upcoming elections in contrast to 31% who wanted him to keep his post. 19%, however, stated that they were indifferent.
There was no significant change in 2007, when in response to the same question, 44% of the respondents suggested that the President should resign from his post after the elections. 26% wanted him to remain as President and 29% said that it did not make any difference to them. In 2007, only 7% of the people described the President’s performance as very good, 22% viewed it as good, 37% considered it to be average, 19% were of the opinion that it was bad and 15% rated it as very bad. Also, 18% of the respondents said that they were satisfied with the President’s handling of his responsibilities, 22% were somewhat satisfied and another 22% described it as average. On the other hand, 6% of the people asserted that they were somewhat unsatisfied and 27% stated that they were very disappointed. When questioned about President Musharraf’s personality, 8% of the people said that he was a very good person, 27% considered him to be good and 34% described him as average. Comparatively, 18% thought of him as bad and 11% believed that he was a very bad person. 2%, however, said that they did not know.
In 2007, when asked to describe the changes that had occurred under President Musharraf, 29% of the respondents said that the political situation had improved, 21% stated that the performance of police had become better and 65% were of the view that the United States’ interference had increased. 57% also believed that the central government pressurized the courts more and 45% were of the opinion that the army had lost its respect. However, only 32% of the people supported the opposition’s position of boycotting the elections as long as President Musharraf was in power. 40% believed that they should take part in the next elections regardless and 28% said that they did not know.
The respondents were also inquired in detail about the possibility of the President keeping the post of Chief of Army Staff in early 2007. In response, 41% of the people claimed that they would support General Musharraf if he stood up for the upcoming elections, even if he kept the post of Army Chief. 30% said that they would oppose him while 18% preferred to remain neutral. Similarly, 43% stated that they would support him if he relinquished the post of Army Chief as compared to 27% who said that they would oppose him and 18% who stated that they would remain neutral. This data, however, contradicts the figures generated in response to another question asked in the same survey. In reply to that particular question, only 15% of the respondents said that they would support President Musharraf if he stood up for the post of President in the upcoming elections.
While the responses cited above indicate a slight decline in President Musharraf’s popularity, they do not say much about the possibility of him retaining his position as President. While most of the people are not happy about the army’s involvement in politics, it seems like they are still unsure about Musharraf’s Presidency. Such a precarious situation could both benefit and hinder the President’s plans of keeping his current post.
These surveys and polls were conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International, on a sample of over 1100 respondents in urban areas of all four provinces of Pakistan. This sample was statistically selected across all ages, income groups and educational levels. The error for a sample of this kind is estimated to be +/- 5% at a 95% confidence level.

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