An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis believe the country is moving in the wrong direction and nearly 60 per cent would rather prefer PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif as President than Asif Ali Zardari, a survey has said.
Eighty eight per cent of the respondents in the poll conducted by the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) said Pakistan is moving in the wrong direction, while 73 per cent said the economic situation had worsened in the past year.
A total of 76 per cent rated the PPP-led government's performance on key issues as poor, up from 51 per cent in a survey conducted by IRI in June.
Sixty-seven per cent replied in the negative when asked if things would be better now as there is a democratically elected Parliament and president in Pakistan.
While 59 per cent of Pakistanis surveyed said they would prefer Sharif as President, only 19 per cent backed Zardari for the job. Sixty three per cent also said they disapproved of Zardari's performance while only 19 per cent approved it.
Asked which leader could best handle the problems facing the country, 31 per cent of respondents backed PML-N chief and former premier Nawaz Sharif while President Zardari was supported by eight per cent and former President Pervez Musharraf by three per cent.
Among the respondents, 64 per cent said they liked slain former premier and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and 60 per cent said they liked Sharif, while 65 per cent said they disliked Zardari.
Significantly, the number of people who said the powerful army should have no role in politics fell from 62 per cent in June to 49 per cent in the latest survey, which was conducted by IRI during October 15-30.
Forty-two per cent said the army should have a role, up from 27 per cent in June.
Asked if they felt more secure this year compared to last year, 78 per cent replied in the negative.
A total of 52 per cent also said the country had not made important steps towards democracy despite the election of a new Parliament and President, the resignation of former President Pervez Musharraf and separation of the posts of President and army chief.
Forty-two per cent said they wanted the PML-N back in the government while 60 per cent held Zardari responsible for the split between the two parties in August.
A total of 54 per cent said they would support a peace deal with extremists, down from 64 per cent in June while 60 per cent said religious extremism is a serious problem in Pakistan.
The survey covered 3,500 people in all four provinces of Pakistan, IRI said.