Americans’ Attitudes Toward Pakistan Largely Negative

by Frank Newport

Almost two-thirds had an unfavorable opinion earlier this year

PRINCETON, NJ -- The recent turmoil in Pakistan has caused great concern around the world and in the United States, but Bush administration officials have continued to call Gen. Musharraf, president of Pakistan, an “indispensable” ally of the United States, and have said that continued partnership with Pakistan “is the only option.”

A review of 2007 Gallup Poll data shows, however, that the American people -- even well before the current state of emergency was declared -- have had largely unfavorable opinions of Pakistan. In Gallup’s latest annual update on Americans’ ratings of foreign countries, conducted this past February, 64% said their opinion of Pakistan was unfavorable, while 28% said their opinion was favorable.

Next, I’d like your overall opinion of some foreign countries. Is your overall opinion of Pakistan very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable?

 

Very
favor-
able

Mostly
favor-
able

Mostly
unfavor-
able

Very
unfavor-
able

No
opin-
ion

Total
favor-
able

Total
unfavor-
able

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

2

26

45

19

8

28

64

2006 Feb 6-9

2

28

43

16

11

30

59

2005 Feb 7-10

4

37

40

9

10

41

49

2004 Feb 9-12

3

25

42

22

8

28

64

2003 Feb 3-6

2

24

42

20

12

26

62

2002 Feb 4-6

4

26

42

21

7

30

63

2000 Mar 17-19

2

19

39

20

20

21

59

Americans’ negative views of Pakistan have been fairly consistent except for one poll conducted in February 2005, when opinions were somewhat more positive. (An analysis of opinions about Pakistan by population subgroup shows there is little difference by political identification in these attitudes. In the most recent poll, Republicans were only slightly more positive than Democrats.)

Despite these negative opinions, a late October Gallup Panel survey showed that few Americans at that time spontaneously mentioned Pakistan as the “greatest threat to stability in the world.”

What single country do you consider to be the greatest threat to stability in the world? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

2007 Oct 25-28

 

%

Iran

35

China

19

North Korea/Korea

10

Iraq

9

United States

8

Russia

4

Pakistan

2

Afghanistan

1

Saudi Arabia

1

Israel

1

 

 

Other

3

No opinion

6

Only 2% of Americans mentioned Pakistan in response to this question, far less than mentioned Iran, China, North Korea, and other countries.

A follow-up question in the October poll asked Americans how important it was that presidential candidates talk about what they would do in regard to various countries if elected president. About half of Americans said Pakistan is “very important” for candidates to discuss, again significantly less than the frequency of mention of such countries as Iraq and Iran. However, when the “very” and “somewhat important” percentages for Pakistan are combined, the result is a substantial 91% who think the country is important for candidates to discuss. It is unclear what effect the recent state of emergency might have on these results. 

Still thinking about international matters, how important is it to you that the presidential candidates talk about what they would do as president to deal with the situations in each of the following countries -- very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not important at all? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?


2007 Oct 25-28
(sorted by "very/
somewhat")


Very
important


Somewhat
important


Not too
important

Not
impor-
tant
at all


No
opin-
ion

Very/
Some-
what
impor-
tant

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

Iraq

87

9

2

2

*

96

Iran

80

16

3

2

*

96

Afghanistan

65

28

5

2

*

93

China

65

26

6

3

*

91

Pakistan

52

39

7

2

1

91

The Palestinian territories

57

32

8

3

1

89

Israel

55

33

8

4

*

88

Sudan

39

41

14

4

1

80

Turkey

32

46

14

6

1

78

Venezuela

23

43

23

9

1

66

Cuba

23

41

24

12

*

64

* Less than 0.5%

Bottom Line

Even before the recent state of emergency in Pakistan became headline news, Gallup polling showed that Americans held generally quite negative views of the country. Almost two-thirds of Americans in Gallup’s February update said their opinion of Pakistan was unfavorable. Few Americans polled before the military takeover said Pakistan was the country that posed the greatest threat to stability in the world, and just about half at that point said it was very important that presidential candidates talk about Pakistan as part of their election campaigns.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-4, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Results for the Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007. Gallup Panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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