NEW YORK - A new public opinion survey released Wednesday says that PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif is the most popular politician in Pakistan and calls President Asif Zardari the least popular one. The survey conducted by reputed also says that most Pakistanis (81 per cent) now see the Pakistani Taliban as well as Al-Qaeda as a critical threat to the country - a gigantic shift from 18 months ago - and support the government and army in their fight in the Swat Valley against the Taliban. About the Pakistans leaders, the survey says a large majority, 68 per cent, views President Zardari unfavourably, but unlike the recent past, there are multiple national leaders whom most do view favourably. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is seemingly not affected by the negative views about President Zardari and gets favourable ratings from 80 per cent of Pakistanis. The restored Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is very popular (82 per cent), and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is extremely popular with 87 per cent approval. The leader most associated with the Pakistani Taliban, Sufi Mohammad, is viewed positively by only 18 percent of Pakistanis, it pointed out. It says that an overwhelming majority thinks that Taliban groups who seek to overthrow the Afghan government should not be allowed to have bases in Pakistan. However, this does not bring with it a shift in attitudes toward the US, as a large majority continue to have an unfavourable view of the US government. A sea change has occurred in Pakistani public opinion. The tactics and undemocratic bent of militant groupsin tribal areas as well as Swathave brought widespread revulsion and turned Pakistanis against them, Clay Ramsay, research director at, said in a statement. However, he added, Its crucial to understand that the US is resented just as much as before, despite the US having a new president. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) say they do not have confidence in President Barack Obama, according to the survey, while even greater majority opposes US drone attacks too. There has been a huge increase in those who think the activities of Islamist militants and local Taliban are a critical threat to Pakistan, a 47-point rise to 81 percent, up from 34 percent in late 2007, it says. If the Pakistani Taliban were to gain control of the country, 75 percent say this would be bad (very bad, 67 per cent), though only 33 percent think this outcome is likely. Seventy percent say their sympathies are more with the government than with the Pakistani Taliban in the struggle over Swat. Large majorities express confidence in the government (69 per cent) and the military (72 per cent) to handle the situation. But only 5 per cent preferred the Pakistani Taliban, and 21 per cent said both equally or neither. Retrospectively, the public leans (by 40 to 45 per cent) towards thinking the government was right to try to make an agreement in which the Pakistani Taliban would shut down their camps and lay down heavy weapons in return for a Sharia court system in Swat. But now 67 per cent think the Pakistani Taliban violated the agreement by sending the militants into adjoining areas, while 63 per cent of Swat residents disapprove the agreement. On the Afghan Taliban, an overwhelming 87 per cent think that groups fighting to overthrow the Afghan government should not be allowed to have bases in Pakistan, but more than three quarters of the respondents (77 per cent) do not believe that the Afghan Taliban have bases in the country. However, if Pakistans government were to identify such bases in the country, three in four (78 per cent) say that it should close the camps even if it requires using military force. Public attitude toward Al-Qaeda training camps follow the same pattern. Those saying the activities of Al-Qaeda are a critical threat to Pakistan are up 41 points to 82 per cent. Almost all 88 per cent are suggest that Al-Qaeda should not be allowed to operate training camps in Pakistan, though 76 per cent do not believe there are such camps, if the Pakistani government were to identify them, 74 percent say the government should close them, with force if necessary. According to the exit poll, 88 per cent people think that it is a US goal to weaken and divide the Islamic world. As many as 77 per cent of Pakistanis said the government should not allow foreign troops to pursue and capture Taliban insurgents who have crossed over from Afghanistan. On the war in Afghanistan, 72 per cent disapprove of the NATO mission and 79 per cent want it ended now; 86 per cent think most Afghans want the mission ended as well. Importantly, another key agreement is found about the treatment of women and girls with seventy per cent of respondents saying that the Taliban would not allow women to work and girls to attend school in exchange for a Sharia court system, as stipulated by the agreement. The Pakistani Taliban is not seen as able to compete with the current government on providing justice, curtailing corruption, or ameliorating poverty; however, large numbers also see the Pakistani government as unable to provide these objectives. Respondents were asked whether they thought, the Pakistani Taliban or the current government would do a better job of providing effective and timely justice in the courts, only 14 per cent thought that the Pakistani Taliban would do better, while 56 per cent expressed confidence in the government would. However, 26 per cent said both or neither. Asked the same question about preventing corruption in government, only 9 per cent preferred the Taliban, but fewer than half (47 per cent) preferred the government; a large 38 per cent said both or neither. Finally, respondents were asked the same question about helping the poor and just 7 per cent preferred the Taliban; 44 per cent preferred the government, with an equal number (44 per cent) saying both or neither. Respondents were also asked if the Pakistani Taliban after taking control of an area, will or will not permit certain activities and four out five said they will not permit women working (81 per cent) or girls going to school (80 per cent). It clearly shows that Pakistanis are in disagreement with the Talibans view on these issues. Asked whether Sharia allows women to work, 75 per cent say that Sharia permits women to work, while 83 per cent are of the opinion that it permits girls schooling with a no from only 17 per cent. Further, 69 per cent said the Pakistani Taliban would not permit children being vaccinated, as militant Islamists believe that mass vaccination campaigns are Western plots to sterilise Muslim populations. World Public Opinion is a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. The poll was conducted May 17-28, 2009. The nationwide random sample included 1000 Pakistani adults, selected using multi-stage probability sampling, who responded in face-to-face interviews. The margin of error is 3.2 per cent. is a project managed by the Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, USA. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Calvert Foundation provided funding for this research. The survey was conducted on May 17-28, 2009. The nationwide random sample included 1000 Pakistani adults, selected using multi-stage probability sampling, who responded in face-to-face interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 per cent.