ISLAMABAD: A new survey on the upcoming elections shows PML-N and PTI in neck and neck fight without any clear winner thus portraying a scenario of a hung parliament, as the majority of the population believes Pakistan is heading in the wrong direction. However, the number of respondents who expressed the intention to vote this time has increased from 76% in 2013 to 82% in 2018.
If the elections are held today, 32% population has shown the intention to vote for the PML-N, 29% for PTI and 13% for PPP, according to a countrywide survey conducted by the Institute of Public Opinion Research (IPOR) in collaboration with an American firm, Global Strategic Partners. The survey was carried out between June 13-July 04 of 3,735 respondents from all across Pakistan. Around 72% responded.
There is a consensus among the pollsters in Pakistan that 35% vote is a minimum threshold to determine which party takes a lead in countrywide elections and right now there is none. However, the PTI has gained popularity from 27% in November 2017 to 29% in July 2018 whereas the PML-N has lost from 37% to 32% in the corresponding period and the PPP’s position has remained the same (13%).
Interestingly, Shahbaz Sharif has scored the highest approval among six political figures surveyed. Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto follow him in terms of popularity ranking. Development work and performance are key reasons of Shahbaz's popularity whereas Imran has endeared the public through his slogan of change and honesty.
Three major issues people tended to hear, watch or read the most about the PML-N are as a corrupt party, its development work and Panama scandal respectively whereas PTI’s fight against corruption, Imran Khan’s marriage with Bushra and Reham Khan’s upcoming book are the issues that attracted the most of public attention. Nawaz Sharif’s slogan “vote ko izzat do” and his attribution to “khalai makhlooq” as a reason of his removal received a split verdict in the survey.
Three most important issues people face are unemployment, loadshedding and corruption, though respondents largely expressed their satisfaction over the performance of federal and provincial governments of Punjab and KP.
As for as the public perception of the country’s future is concerned, only 35% thought it is heading in the right direction in comparison to 64% who gave the opinion in the negative. Most of the pessimists were found in Sindh (75%) followed by Punjab (61%), KP (59%) and Balochistan (58%). Comparing their thinking with that reflected in a survey of November last year, pessimism has increased by one percent in July this year and mostly rooted in top three concerns: corruption (20%), high inflation (18%) and unemployment (10%). These concerns are in contrast with their satisfaction about the performance of PML-N’s government at federal level (57%) as well as in Punjab (76%) and PTI’s in KP (64%).
Shahbaz Sharif is ahead of Imran Khan when their approval rate is separately judged as a person and as the future prime minister. When the respondents were given a choice of six political figures to see how much are they liked, Shahbaz Sharif scored 62%, Imran Khan 53%, Nawaz Sharif 47%, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi 41%, Maryam Nawaz 40% and Bilawal Bhutto 38%. After a couple of other questions, the respondents were separately asked about Shahbaz Sharif and Imran Khan as future prime minister: 56% voted for Shahbaz and 37% against him. Likewise, 46% were for Imran Khan 44% against him. As they were bracketed together in yet another question asking them who would be comparatively better prime minister, 47% favoured Shahbaz and 44% Imran. Top three reasons that made Shahbaz popular are his development work (21%), that he is good for country (19%) and good performance (18%). Top three reasons described by those who dislike him are corruption (53%), false promises (9%) and that focus of his development is only on Punjab (8%).
Regarding Imran, the top three reasons why people want to see him as the prime minister is his slogan of change (21%), honesty (19%) and development work (19%). Top three reasons of respondents’ for disliking him as prime ministerial candidate is that he lacks the experience (22%), that he is bad for the country (15%) and that he always takes U-turn (11%). Asked whether they agree with Nawaz Sharif’s allegation that “khalai makhlooq” was behind his removal, 39% agreed and 53% didn’t. If a province-wise breakup analysed of those who agreed with Nawaz Sharif’s narrative, majority is in Balochistan (55%) that follows Punjab (48%), Sindh 26% and KP (21%). Regarding his “vote ko izzat do” slogan, 49% approved his demand and 47% didn’t. Again, a majority of the takers of this slogan are in Balochistan (61%), Punjab (60%), Sindh (36%) and KP (26%).
When respondents were asked about positive or negative publicity of the PML-N and PTI, 32% heard, read and watched positively about PML-N and 47% about the PTI. What they came to know most about PML-N as corrupt party (30%), development work (10%) and Panama scandal (10%). Regarding the PTI, it is about the party’s fight against corruption (15%), Imran’s marriage with Bushra (12%) and about Reham Khan’s upcoming book (10%).