NEW YORK - While President Asif Ali Zardari made some gains in his approval rating over the past six months, PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharifs popularity suffered a little in the same period, according to a new poll published in The New York Times Thursday. The survey, conducted by the Washington-based International Republican Institute (IRI), a pro-democracy group financed by the US government, also said that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani people continued to reject the United States as a partner to fight militancy in their country. It says the anti-American trend persists even with the arrival of the Obama administration and the prospect of substantially increased US aid, posing problems for the American efforts to tamp down Islamic militancy in the strategically vital nation. President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a relatively inexperienced politician, scored a 25 per cent approval rating how hes handling his job, 6 points more than in March, the NYT correspondent in Islamabad, Jane Perlez, wrote, citing the poll. His chief opponent, Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, garnered a 67 per cent favourable rating, down from 75 per cent in March. The findings come as Washington is poised to spend $1.5 billion in assistance for Pakistan in the coming year; a big jump in American funds intended to help strengthen the civilian government rather than the military. The poll coincides with particularly strong attacks in the Pakistani media about the American Embassys hiring private security firms to protect its diplomats, the dispatch said. Even as the Obama administration takes pride in the new funds for Pakistan, the increased aid has been criticised in the Pakistani news media and among politicians as too little, one calling it 'peanuts. According to the poll, 80 per cent of the respondents said they were opposed to United States assistance in Pakistans fight against terrorism, a 19 percentage-point increase since the last survey conducted by the institute in March. The survey says that 76 per cent of the respondents were opposed to Pakistan partnering with the United States on missile attacks against extremists by the drone aircraft. Such strikes have been underway for several years against militants in the tribal region, and have recently intensified. In order to improve American standing in Pakistan, the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, had ordered an overhaul of the public diplomacy programmes and was sending several seasoned diplomats to bolster the embassy, a senior American official told the NYT. A public affairs strategy centred on the American desire for a strong relationship with Pakistan and focused on describing the common enemy as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was about to begin, the official said. The new effort includes spending about $30 million on educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries, and providing more Fulbright scholarships for Pakistanis to study at American universities. Face-to-face interviews were conducted from July 15 to Aug 7 with 4,900 adults throughout the four provinces, excluding areas in the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus one percentage point. The survey results will be available on the institutes Web site, www.iri.org, on Friday. The IRI is conducting surveys in Pakistan since 2002.