WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an audio message released last Thursday, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called for a jihad against Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf in retaliation for a July siege on the Red Mosque by Pakistani security forces. Pakistan has experienced an increase in Islamic militancy among the population since Gallup first polled there in 2001, and now U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Qaeda is regrouping in the lawless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When asked in a recent Gallup Poll whether they think their government is doing enough to fight terrorism, just one-third (33%) of Pakistanis said yes, while almost half (45%) said no. Respondents were also asked more specifically, "Do you think Pakistan is doing enough to control cross-border terrorism?" Here, Pakistanis were about twice as likely to say yes as they were to say no -- 37% vs. 18%, respectively -- although a notable 42% said they didn't know. In response to a follow-up question, "Do you think Afghanistan is doing enough to control cross-border terrorism?", Pakistanis were more evenly divided: 24% said yes, 29% said no, and 45% said they didn't know.
Gallup also asked Pakistanis how favorably they viewed several international figures, including Osama bin Laden, using a scale of 1 to 10. More than half of Pakistanis interviewed (54%) said they weren't aware of bin Laden or didn't offer a response. Among the remaining 46% of the total population who did offer an opinion, the average rating was somewhat favorable, at 6.35 on the 10-point scale. Looking at the regional responses of the country, 59% of people in rural areas -- where people tend to be less informed overall -- said they were not aware or did not answer. This compares to 43% of urbanites.
The more prominent threat to most Pakistanis at this time may relate to the Taliban, and other groups including political and sectarian ones, rather than from al-Qaeda. A June report from the country's Interior Ministry warned Musharraf that the Taliban has stepped up attacks and is rapidly gaining influence beyond Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. Notably, the number of Pakistanis who tell Gallup they feel safe walking alone in their areas at night has dropped sharply over the past two years, from 71% in 2005 to just 50% in 2007.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,500 residents of Pakistan, aged 15 and older, conducted May 24 - June 29, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ±2.8 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.