Pakistani voters appear divided on many questions of the day – including who to vote for in the upcoming elections and what issues are most critical for the country at present – according to the Political Barometer, an opinion survey conducted by the Herald in partnership with the Sustainable Development Policy Institue (SDPI), an Islamabad-based think-tank.
Of those respondents who say they have registered for the upcoming elections, 29 per cent expressed an intention to vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). 24.7 per cent pledged support for the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) while 20.3 per cent indicated a preference for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The survey’s findings indicate that the PTI’s support is derived from all age groups – 22.9 per cent of those between 18 to 35 years, 18.6 per cent of those between 36 to 50 years, 18.4 per cent of those between 51 to 70 years and 7.7 of those above 70 years support the PTI, dispelling the notion that its vote bank is rooted in the younger generation.
The highest proportion of those aged between 36 to 50 years (32.5 per cent) indicate a preference for the PPP. Similarly, 46.2 per cent of those aged over 70 expressed a preference for the PMLN.
Compared with respondents’ voting histories, the PMLN’s vote bank appears to have remained stagnant while the PPP’s seems to have declined significantly.
It appears that the PTI has a stronger urban base, while a higher proportion of rural respondents indicated that they would vote for either the PPP or the PMLN in the upcoming elections.
The ethnic vote
Predictably, the highest level of support for the ruling party was pledged by Sindhis, 55 per cent of whom said that they would vote for the PPP in the impending elections.
This was followed by Seraiki-speakers at 46 per cent.
Forty-four per cent of Hindko-speakers said that they intended to vote for the PMLN, closely followed by Punjabis at 43 per cent.
The same proportion of Hindko-speakers – 44 per cent – also expressed an intention to vote for the PTI, indicating a close contest between the two parties (PMLN and PTI) within that particular demographic.
It is worth noting that while 34 per cent of Pakhtuns stated that they would vote for PTI, only 11 per cent expressed the same vis a vis the Awami National Party (ANP).
47 per cent of Baloch said that they would vote for the Balochistan National Party–Mengal.
On average, approximately a third of those earning up to 30,000 rupees each month indicated a preference for the PPP whereas, among those earning more than 30,000 rupees, support for the party dropped to 10.8 percent.
This is in keeping with the party’s traditional pro-poor image.
No such trend could be determined for the PMLN, whose level of support remained similar across all income levels.
Those earning in excess of 250,000 rupees each month (the highest identified income bracket in the survey) expressed the maximum intention to vote for either the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) or the PTI, at 33 per cent each.
While this figure may appear anomalistic in the MQM’s case – support for the party within the second highest income bracket (those earning between 100,000 and 250,000 rupees each month) was only four per cent – it was possible to identify a rough direct trend between level of income and support for the PTI.
In general, it appeared that support for smaller parties declined with increasing levels of income.
From a given list, respondents identified — in the following order – poverty, corruption, power crises, illiteracy and extremism as the top five issues crucial to the country today.
No issue received more than 17 per cent of the vote, a possible indication of a divided electorate.
A marginally higher percentage of respondents belonging to lower income brackets identified poverty as an issue of concern, while a higher proportion of those at higher levels of income identified – albeit again by a small margin – corruption as a ‘crucial issue’.
A similar proportion of urban and rural respondents (12 per cent each), considered corruption to be an issue that has not been effectively addressed by the current government — an assessment perhaps linked to the prevailing perception (55.6 per cent, according to survey responses) of the ruling party as being the most corrupt.