'A joke': No evidence survey showing PML-N's popularity at 70% was even conducted

No evidence found that the think-tank, which published the survey, exists or such a poll was conducted in Punjab

Geo Fact-Check

A survey, which has accumulated thousands of interactions on social media, purportedly shows former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s popularity rising dramatically since May 9, in the Punjab province.

But Geo Fact Check has found no evidence that the think-tank, which published the survey, exists or that such a poll was even conducted in Punjab.

On May 21, a Twitter account titled, “Democratic Studies Institute”, posted the results of province-specific survey, which showed Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) politician, Nawaz Sharif’s approval ratings boosted up to 70% in Punjab post-May 9, when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporters attacked state properties in reaction to the arrest of their leader and former prime minister Imran Khan.

The same survey also claimed that respondents had soured on Sharif’s rival, Imran Khan, whose popularity took a hit and dropped to 3%.

The tweet has been viewed nearly 800,000 times and retweeted 210 times, to date.

The Democratic Studies Institute, which describes itself as an Islamabad-based think tank on Twitter, also alleges that its sample size was a whopping over 90,000 people in Punjab.

However, no additional details about the survey or the think-tank could be found online.

In fact, the Democratic Studies Institute has no website, provides no contact details, nor has any presence on other social media platforms.

Its Twitter account was created as recently as March, and has only 550 followers. While in its Twitter bio it states that it is an “Islamabad-based global think tank conducting regular opinion poll”.

Geo Fact Check found that the Institute has to date published approximately 10 purported national surveys, of which majority, therefore seven, are favorable to the ruling-Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

While two place the PML-N’s ally, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam- F (JUI-F) in the lead and one shows another PML-N ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), outranking others political parties in Karachi, Sindh.

Most of the surveys cite a large sample size of between 19,000 to 100,000, but provide no information on the methodology used to conduct the surveys.

“I am not familiar with this organisation [The Democratic Studies Institute],” Bilal Gilani, the executive director at Gallup Pakistan, a leading research survey agency in Pakistan, told Geo Fact Check, “Neither have I met anyone from this organisation.”

He further added that one of the surveys forecasted the PML-N picking up 240 contestable seats in the 371-strong Punjab assembly next general polls.

“This kind of seat prediction is a complicated activity and needs a lot of resources,” Gilani said over the phone, “A small institute cannot do it. And in fact the results shown also seem to be an impossible situation.”

Geo Fact Check then reached out to Pulse Consultant, a Karachi-based social research organisation.

“This [survey] seems fake,” Kashif Hafeez, the CEO of Pulse, added, “The way that a few days back a [dubious] organisation made a survey favoring Imran Khan, this one favours the PML-N.”

Another pollster, who asked not to be named, said that the survey being cited by the organisation was “a joke”.

“It is tragic that such organisations are popping up and giving credible research agencies a bad name,” he added.

Additional reporting by Hamza Khan.

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