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Pakistanis Saw Progress on Terrorism Before Attacks

Pakistanis Saw Progress on Terrorism Before Attacks

by Brad Hoffman and Mohamed Younis

Story Highlights

  • Majority of Pakistanis thought government was doing enough
  • Confidence in military remains high
  • Confidence in national government also up

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before the Pakistani Taliban's deadly attack Tuesday on a school in Peshawar, Pakistanis were seeing progress in the government's fight against terrorism in their country. For the first time since Gallup started asking Pakistanis about terrorism efforts in 2007, the majority of Pakistanis (54%) said their government was doing enough to fight it. Prior to this, only about one-third of Pakistanis felt this way.

Improving Perceptions of the Efforts to Fight Terrorism

The Pakistani Taliban claim the attack at the Army Public School and Degree College, which killed more than 130 children, was in retaliation for military offensives in the northwest tribal areas this year. Although surveyed a month before the major offensive that Pakistan's military launched in mid-June, Pakistanis in most regions -- including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Peshawar is located -- were more confident than before in the government's efforts. The results for Baluchistan are aggregated for the years 2013 and 2014, and there was little change in sentiment between years.


Some of Pakistanis' new confidence could have stemmed from their hope surrounding peace talks and a cease-fire between the Taliban and the military in the spring, but also possibly from the recent change in the military's leadership. Although supportive of the government's peace process at the time, Gen. Raheel Sharif, who took over as the head of Pakistan's army in late 2013, is perceived at home and abroad as more focused on the threat that militants pose in his country than his predecessors.

Pakistanis Highly Confident in Military

At the time of the survey in May, the vast majority of Pakistanis continued to express confidence in their military, which has had a strong presence in civil society for decades. In 2014, nearly nine in 10 Pakistanis told Gallup they had confidence in the military, down only slightly from the record-high 95% in 2013.

Most Pakistanis Have Confidence in the Military

While confidence is generally high across all of Pakistan, there are some regional differences. For example, confidence in the military is lowest in Baluchistan (78%) and Sindh (79%). In Punjab, confidence in the military has not dropped below 80% since Gallup started tracking this question for Pakistani regions in 2007.


In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, where the Peshawar school attack occurred, more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (91%) expressed confidence in the military in 2014. Confidence in the military for this region has been above 90% since 2011, after rising from a low of 59% in 2008.

Confidence in National Government Up

While Pakistanis' confidence in the military has gradually risen since 2008, confidence in the national government has generally been sinking since the country emerged from military rule that same year. Confidence in the national government improved substantially for the first time in 2014, rising to 43% from 26% in 2013. This improvement likely reflects Pakistanis' relief in reaching the end of what became an exceptionally unpopular Asif Ali Zardari government. Since August, however, the Nawaz Sharif administration has faced a severe political crisis after a long-standing protest by opposition parties forced the military to intervene and end a government standoff.

Improving Confidence in the National Government

While 53% of Pakistanis said they do not have confidence in the national government, this is an improvement from 2013, when 73% said the same -- the worst rating since Gallup began asking that question in 2006.

Bottom Line

The attack that took place on Tuesday may cause some Pakistanis to question the military's ability to protect its citizens and the effectiveness of the government's policies toward counterterrorism. Yet the historically high levels of confidence in the military as well as national sentiments after the attack likely mean that Pakistan's leaders will have a renewed mandate to harden their efforts in combating terrorism.

In the short term, the military will likely expand its efforts and pursue more aggressive and wider-scale operations against the Pakistani Taliban. Also, there will likely be increased public support for coordination with Afghanistan in combating the Taliban along the border. With the public now squarely focused on the threat of Taliban terror attacks, it remains to be seen whether the country's worst attack can bring together the country's leaders to focus on strengthening national security.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted May 5-14, 2014, in Pakistan. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 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.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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