File photo

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).

Mind the generation gap

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.

Money matters

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.

It’s the issues, stupid

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.

While 59 per cent of respondents rated the performance of the government as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, the ruling PPP nonetheless emerged as the party that the highest number of respondents (27.1 per cent) said would be most effective in addressing the identified issues.

Urban respondents appeared more dissatisfied with the current government’s performance, with 63 per cent rating it as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. Dissatisfaction was also slightly more pronounced with increasing education-levels of respondents.

10 per cent of those earning less than 3,600 rupees a month deemed the current government’s performance to have been ‘excellent’ while 23 per cent, conversely, rated it as ‘very poor’.

In contrast, 54 per cent of those earning in excess of 250,000 rupees a month considered the government’s performance to have been very poor.

Indeed, based on the survey’s findings, it is possible to state that those at higher income levels appear relatively more disgruntled by the current government – a conclusion somewhat surprising given that among the top five ‘crucial’ issues identified by respondents, at least two – poverty and illiteracy – are of greater concern to those earning lower levels of income.

For respondents with higher levels of education, extremism, political instability and interprovincial problems appeared to be issues of greater concern, whereas those with little or no education deemed inflation, gender discrimination and food shortages as bigger problems.

Getting out the vote

Approximately 21 per cent of respondents admitted to never previously having voted in an election.

There appeared to be a negative correlation between inclination to vote and levels of income – 38 per cent of those earning above 250,000 rupees a month stated that they had never voted before, as compared to 13 per cent of those earning less than 3,600 rupees.

Despite this, however, those within the highest income bracket were most likely (at 38 per cent) to have been a member of a political party.

Similarly, while a greater number of respondents from urban areas say that they have been members of a political party (17 per cent) and claim to have been active participants of an election campaign (23 per cent), their political involvement did not necessarily appear to translate into electoral participation.

29 per cent of urban dwellers profess to have never voted in an election while 85 per cent of rural respondents have voted in at least one election with 46 per cent having voted in three or more elections.

Moreover, while it would appear that higher levels of education may result in greater political participation, 87 per cent of those with no education claimed to have voted in three or more elections, while approximately 38 per cent of those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher professed to have voted in the same number of elections.

Ninety four per cent of respondents, however, have said that they have registered to vote in the upcoming elections, a figure that bodes well for a country with plummeting rates of voter turnout.

Based on survey findings, it would seem that the electoral playing field will be closely contested this time round between the PPP and the PMLN, with the PTI not far behind. In light of this, who will be at the helm of the incoming government?

Five scenarios

According to Dr Abid Suleri, executive director at SDPI, things may unfold in in a number of ways come elections, giving shape to five distinct scenarios.

Scenario 1 The PPP forms an electoral alliance with its current allies: the Awami National Party (ANP), MQM and the Pakistan Muslim League–Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ); while a grand anti-PPP alliance, comprising the PMLN, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) but not the PTI, simultaneously takes shape.

Based on the findings of this survey, in this first scenario, the PPP and its allies may be able to secure 38.1 per cent of the vote. A grand anti-PPP alliance, which discludes the PTI, may secure 29.5 per cent. Together with the PTI, this grand opposition alliance may give the PPP a difficult time.

Scenario 2 Alternatively, the PPP forms an electoral alliance with its current allies, the ANP and the PMLQ – but not the MQM, which opts for the grand anti-PPP alliance. Here too, the PTI chooses to remain alone.

In this instance, the PPP and its allies would likely capture 33.9 per cent of the votes. An opposition alliance could secure with ease 33.7 per cent. This scenario would also result in the formation of a minority government, albeit a weaker one with a more formidable opposition. Either the PPP and the PTI would form the opposition to a PMLN-led government or the PMLN and the PTI would do the same against a PPP-led government.

Scenario 3 In this scenario, the PPP forms an electoral alliance with its current allies, the ANP, the MQM and the PMLQ – while the PMLN and the PTI form an opposing alliance. In this case, the PTI and the PMLN would, with 45.0 per cent of the votes, comfortably sail through the elections, forming a comparatively stable government at the centre. They may be joined by a number of other anti-PPP parties.

Scenario 4 The PPP and the PTI form an electoral alliance, while the PMLN forms a grand opposing alliance. In this instance, the PPP and the PTI would receive 49.3 per cent of the votes, and easily form a stable central government.

Scenario 5 The PPP forms an alliance with its current allies, while the PTI and the JI form an alliance; concurrently, the PMLN forms an alliance with the JUI and other anti-PPP parties. In this instance, the PPP and its allies would receive 38.1 per cent of the vote, the PTI and JI pairing would capture 23.9 per cent of the votes, while the PMLN led alliance would receive 25.9 per cent.


So, what electoral outcome seems most likely?

Politics in Pakistan is predicated on uncertainty but, according to Dr Suleri, there’s a high chance that the third and fourth scenarios may never materialise.

Moreover, given that the country is far from being a homogenous entity where support is spread uniformly across all constituencies, the actual outcome may be entirely different from the ones described above.

Indeed, in the first-past-the-post electoral system, percentage of votes scarcely translate into a similar proportion of seats in the National or provincial assemblies.

It is evident, however, that no single party currently stands to sweep the upcoming polls.

It also appears, based on survey findings, that the PPP may have to retain its current allies to maintain its present political clout – and that, amidst the traditional PPP-PMLN toss-up, the PTI is emerging as a political reality.

What is most certain, says Dr Suleri, is that whoever does manage to form the government will most likely have to contend with a strong opposition. Moreover, if responses collected in the Political Barometer are any indication, it may also find it difficult to figure out what issues to tackle first, in order to soothe an electorate clamouring for change.


Whereas many surveys conducted in Pakistan base their sample along provincial demographics, the Political Barometer’s sample of 1,283 respondents was based on Pakistan’s ethno-linguistic identities -- the Baloch, Hindko-speakers, Pakhtuns, Punjabis, Seraiki-speakers, Sindhis, Urdu-speakers and others.

Stratified sampling was used to reflect voter preferences across ethnicities, genders, age groups, urban or rural localities, education levels and income brackets.

An abridged version of this survey appeared in today's Dawn. Full results of the survey, which was carried out in 54 districts by a team of around 100 interviewers, can be found in a special supplement distributed alongside the February issue of the Herald. 

More From This Section

Militants attacked after soldier hurt in blast

Helicopter gunships attacked militant hideouts in North Waziristan after a security man was injured in an explosion.

Saudi Arabia warns PIA of halting flights over unpaid dues

Saudi civil aviation authority threatened PIA of stopping all flights in case dues were not cleared before April 17.

Sharif, Zardari meet today

The two are meeting against the backdrop of the tensions between the civilian and military leaderships.

Hearing for Musharraf treason case adjourned until April 24

Akram Sheikh said that the FIA found evidences only against Musharraf related to the Nov 3 declaration of emergency.

Comments are closed.

Comments (38)

February 9, 2013 4:28 am
Interesting analysis
February 9, 2013 4:50 am
I think the sampling too small for a huge population of pakistan. Hence the opinion poll should be taken with a pinch of salt
Pro Truth
February 9, 2013 5:26 am
given the current performance of PPP! this survey doesnt depict the truth. How many would still vote for PPP? 29%??? give me a break
February 9, 2013 5:27 am
It depends on who can get out the most votes (or rig most effectively). Given that it's based on constituencies, the party that's able to get the plurality takes the seat, so really, we could see a large share of the seats going to a party with fewer votes in general although It's safe (maybe) to say though, that Q League and ANP will be on the losing end.
Raza Haider
February 9, 2013 6:35 am
Interesting Analysis.... But totally incomplete. since it did not mention that any analysis that how many VOTERS will vote due to being afraid of Threats given them during Campaign. it did not mention that How many people will VOTE only at one Order of their Tribe's Leader or Wadaira. it also did not mention that why VOTE Turnover will get Drastically, Surprisingly and Dramatically increased in only Karachi, Hyderabad and some parts of Sindh and rest of the Country has same average turn over. Perhaps it is a Fake Dummy Democracy. We leave our Country's fate at the disposal of these Corrupt, Docaits, Illiterate Politicians who take VOTES by THREATS and such other methods.
February 9, 2013 6:36 am
Good Analysis : but elections will not be held as per schedule because Estabishment is using QADRI Card...
February 9, 2013 6:42 am
As hush silence prevails over the PTI supporters. As predicted, PML-N will be your next party in power.
February 9, 2013 6:46 am
Ethnic Vote, Siraiki vote tendency is silent. Provincial demand by Siraiki issue would have given new interesting sight had there been poll analysis in the report.
Rameez Hassan
February 9, 2013 6:54 am
It's not the war between people of different religions ,sects or ethnicities ...But its the war between poor and rich...PPP was the outcome of class struggle in Pakistan and this survey is indicating that poor masses are still with PPP...
February 9, 2013 7:28 am
All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. The questions are, we going to have those. For general public election doesn’t matter… The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter
February 9, 2013 7:52 am
I totally disagree with your analysis. Scenario two is impossible on any cost. MQM will always go with the house. And you have missed one entity PML-Functional. They will also have a 2-digit number of seats. Interior Sind is bleeding with PPP not have done anything.
Rocking Aaryyan
February 9, 2013 7:57 am
its great to come and read about the most interesting things that daws shares with its users and i really like to read the most sensitive issues on which daws is working through its memebers.
February 9, 2013 7:59 am
WHAT??? PPP with 29 % approval rating? Have you conducted this survey in Rural Sind i guess only.
February 9, 2013 8:02 am
In Pakistan such a sampling is hardly any indicator of would-be winner . For urban areas it may be true . From rural areas the same fudal lords will join the parliment regardless the party they belong to . Election commion should be powerfull enough to enforce rules to disqulify these lords . Commission will find hundred and one reasons to justify . This is the only peacefull way for country to move forward .
February 9, 2013 8:15 am
Cant trust this survey which shows PPP most famous among youth :)
February 9, 2013 8:33 am
Even if we take this to be real I am happy coz not much difference, with all media attack, mistakes and lack of activity #PTI still close 3rd. With Election campaign PTI will improve much more
February 9, 2013 8:43 am
If this survey is correct, I am really disappointed that the people still wants to vote for ppp.
Wahab J
February 9, 2013 9:13 am
Sample size is 0.000007% of the total population. Sorry mate, results are going to be hell changed from your predictions!
February 9, 2013 11:25 am
interesting, though I'm surprised to hear Imran may choose to ally with the religious parties, I would support Imran but I am not in favour of the religious parties, that would turn me completely off PTI. PTI needs to create its own image outside the religious right, if it wants to gain support both from Pakistan's minorities as well as people like myself who simply distrust the religious lobby.
February 9, 2013 12:47 pm
The survey is obviously the latest gimmick by the incompetent and corrupt coalition, which has competely ruined the country over the last five years, to give the impression that it will come close to winning the next election. If the conditions are so good, why don't they immediately dissolve the assemblies and hold free and fair polls? Even for a moment, if we assume that the results of the survey are correct, then God help Pakistan. But then, God Almighty gives a people the type of leaders they deserve.
February 9, 2013 12:59 pm
A pinch? A ton of salt would be more accurate!
M. Asghar
February 9, 2013 1:21 pm
The quality of elections will depend on the vigilence of the ECP, paricularly, in the counryside, where the local feudalistic forces will try to pressure the electorate to go their way.
February 9, 2013 1:38 pm
You forgot to add the Tsunami factor. But that's good, it will be even more of a surprise :)
Sikander Abbasi
February 9, 2013 1:52 pm
Two Parties ,PPPP & PML (N) Will have a tough competition in the coming elections ,whereas PTI , JUI & PML (Q) will remain followers of elections .
Hasan Javed
February 9, 2013 2:03 pm
i dont think PPP in any case have such support on ground level by doing such a worst performance in past 5 years
February 9, 2013 3:42 pm
Good analysis. How accurate are these only time will tell. I have saved this article and will compare it with actual results.
Gulbaz Mushtaq
February 9, 2013 3:47 pm
PPP majority party in coming elections ???? Really??????? For God sake, was this poll was conducted in Garhi Khuda Bakhash????
February 9, 2013 4:08 pm
We have been introduced to these opinion polls by the recently held US elections. I feel many in Pakistan have found conducting these surveys to be an extremely profitable exercise. I also feel there will be more surveys in the run up to the elections. The results of these surveys will vary depending on the hand that feeds. Therefore, the most popular party in Pakistan (the one that will never stoop low to be the feeding hand) will never be shown as the most popular by these polls. It is only fair elections that can gauge true political popularity in Pakistan. I wish I can see fair elections in Pakistan in my lifetime but I am sure my children will. In the end, PPP the most popular party??? Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Herald?
February 9, 2013 8:22 pm
Which 3% think that this government is Excellent...LMAO...they must be sadists
February 9, 2013 9:09 pm
Can't trust a survey without knowing the sampling methodology e.g. you can easily get people speaking all these languages in Karachi but it will not be true cross sample of the whole country. What was he sample size by each group? What seems evident is that there will be no majority and PPP will loose seats. Zaradari is the master of bribary and manipulation which enables him to create any kind of coalition. All others, except for maybe PTI and PML(N) due to their size are up for sale. An interesting question about PTI is whether their popularity will result in actual seats. e.g. they have a good following in Karachi but may end up as runner ups in may contests against MQM. Any way it goes a far election will be right step towards a mature democracy.
February 9, 2013 10:36 pm
Imran Khan is going to ensure PPP's win by dividing the PML-N's vote. What a disaster that would be!
February 9, 2013 10:40 pm
I don't trust this survey. First the sample space is too small, so a very large margin of error. Plus to know the truth behind every survey or study, you have to know who funded or partnered on it. This survey was supported by herald/dawn group, which is a pro-ppp government media group. Hence the results beings pro-ppp.
February 10, 2013 2:20 am
you must be joking ppp 29 percent haha clearly shows done by Govt :) PMLN will win inshallah
Safder Lodi
February 10, 2013 3:12 am
This is True_Story of the Voters. Low_Income people are Strong but Silent Supporter of PPP. At present they have no Significant_Voice but, they are quite determined to vote in favor of PPP, esp in small towns. Poor people has no access to FB etc busy in his daily bread activity. But he WILL Spare whole day for PPP on the day of Casting .
February 10, 2013 5:00 am
opinion sample is too small to indicate the general thinking of masses. although a good effort but could have been better provided more number of voters have been consulted. but i pakistan all depends what happens in last month of elction. just think of the power crises the country is likely to face in may and the hot weather. this factor will help those parties who were out of parliament this time, Dont forget what happened in 2002. just out of anger for USA people voted for MMA. this time people will vote for PTI only out of anger for current ruling parties
February 10, 2013 5:38 am
Interesting comments. We agree with surveys where results are according to our personal opinion. Otherwise not!
February 10, 2013 7:01 am
I am fully confident that statistician will simply laugh at the conclusion of this survey based upon sampling of 1283 data enteries giving the impression of reflecting the entire population of more than 17 crore. The calculation in terms of % become even more rediculous bearing in mind that only 128 enteries would correspond to whole 10 % . This survey does not conform to quality by any norms. I would wish that those organised and conducted the survey could have followed the basis prinicple of statistics knowing the significance of uncertainty involved by such small number. What confidence level will be assigned to these findings is no where to read in the survey?
February 10, 2013 7:16 am
i have never taken part in elections....this time i would ....i have realized that my vote does matter....and i would vote for the party which promises free education medical for all. I would vote for the politician who would be from among the common man and not from the elite. I would not vote for political parties who are family based or who have dictators of murderers as their heads..i would vote for a true democratic party....and u all know who i am talking about......does not require much guessing......Best of Luck to all my dear loving compatriots....
Explore: Indian elections 2014
Explore: Indian elections 2014
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
How much do you know about Indian Elections?
From The Newspaper