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Pakistanis Criticize U.S. Action That Killed Osama Bin Laden

Many believe Pakistan will be less safe from terrorism

by Julie Ray and Rajesh Srinivasan

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new Gallup poll finds almost two-thirds of Pakistanis condemn the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden -- a sharp contrast to Americans' nearly universal approval of the action. Sixty-four percent of all Pakistanis surveyed a week after the operation said they disapproved; 10% approved, 23% were still unaware of the incident, and 3% did not have an opinion.

Do you approve of disapprove of the U.S. military action that killed Osama bin Laden?

Although the news about the U.S. military operation that killed bin Laden near Abbottabad, Pakistan, had not reached all Pakistanis by the time the survey took place May 9-12, 82% of Pakistanis who did know about the incident disapproved, while 13% approved.

Pakistanis Would Have Preferred to See Bin Laden Captured Alive

Pakistanis and Americans are also at odds on what should have happened to bin Laden. The plurality of Pakistanis (41%) said he should have been captured, rather than killed, and half as many (22%) said neither should have happened. Eight percent said he should have been killed. Among Pakistanis who were aware of the action, 52% said bin Laden should have been captured, rather than killed, and 29% said he should neither have been captured nor killed.

Which of the following comes closest to your view?

The majority of Americans (60%), however, when asked a similar question, said bin Laden should have been killed, and 33% said he should have been captured alive.

Better for the U.S. to Have Captured or Killed Osama bin Laden?

Nearly 9 in 10 Dislike That Operation Took Place Without Government Knowledge

Regardless of how they feel about bin Laden's killing, Pakistanis who were aware of the operation disapprove that it was carried out inside Pakistan without the government's knowledge. Nearly 9 in 10 of these Pakistanis disapproved, which suggests they may perceive it as a violation of sovereignty, as former President Pervez Musharraf recently told Newsweek. "There is one downside to [the death of bin Laden], and this is the violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan," he said. "I strongly believe that, and the people of Pakistan are very sensitive to this."

Regardless of how you feel about the killing of Osama bin Laden, do you approve or disapprove of the operation being carried out inside Pakistan without the knowledge of the government?

Pakistanis See Themselves as Less Safe From Terrorism

While a slight majority of Americans (54%) believe bin Laden's death will make the U.S. safer from terrorism, Pakistanis, who have often been the targets of terrorism in recent years, feel vulnerable. Before the suicide attacks in northwest Pakistan on Friday -- which the Pakistani Taliban claimed were revenge for bin Laden's death -- nearly half of all Pakistanis (46%) said his death made their country less safe from terrorism. Sixty percent of Pakistanis who were aware of the U.S. operation felt more at risk.

Do you think the killing of Osama bin Laden will make [your country] more safe or less safe from terrorism?

The fact that the U.S. found and killed bin Laden in Pakistan did not particularly boost Pakistanis' confidence in their country's efforts, either. Half of Pakistanis who are aware of the U.S. operation said it made them less confident in their country's efforts to fight terrorism, while 15% said it made them more confident and 26% volunteered that it made no difference. Gallup surveys in 2010, well before bin Laden's death, showed many Pakistanis felt the government's anti-terrorism efforts were falling short.


Americans' and Pakistanis' different reactions to the operation and bin Laden's death illustrate the wide gulf that exists in their respective perceptions about the war on terrorism and Pakistan's participation. Although news reports suggest bin Laden's killing has angered many Pakistanis, the perceived attack on their country's sovereignty perhaps hurts them more.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry's visit to Pakistan aimed to defuse the situation, but if both countries want to rebuild trust they will need to demonstrate shared commitment. Additional Gallup analyses in the coming days will cover the operation's effect on Pakistanis' views of U.S.-Pakistan relations, as well as their views of their own leadership's handling of the situation.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, plesae contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted between May 9-12, 2011, with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older covering both urban and rural areas across all four provinces in Pakistan. Federally administered areas and Azad Jammu Kashmir were excluded from this study. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 2, 2011, with a random sample of 645 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.


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