THE soundings of public opinion in Pakistan on a wide variety of issues conducted by the US-based International Republican Institute generally go to confirm the common feeling in the country. The survey gave the support of 75 percent of the population to PML(N)s Mian Nawaz Sharif, followed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry (54 percent), Prime Minister Gilani (33 percent) and COAS General Kayani (30 percent). President Zardari brought up the rear having a paltry 19 percent backing. Mr Zardaris image could not possibly improve if he is perceived to be indifferent to the peoples problems and stays abroad for long periods while the country fights, what the world terms as a battle for survival. While to the casualties resulting from the military operation against militants raging at full blast has been added the human misery of exodus from Malakand Division, with the number of internally displaced persons likely to touch one million, the President has chosen to extend the already pretty long visit to the US and added some European countries in the itinerary. Conversely, the espousal of popular causes keeps Mian Nawaz in the top slot; he actually was able to garner more points than previously as 'sympathy vote following the Dogar Supreme Court disqualifying him for holding any office. The gap between Mr Zardari and Mr Gilani is obviously due to the impression that the Prime Minister feels more for the peoples causes than the President. Chief Justice Chaudhry maintains a good ranking, which would certainly go up if he were to deliver on weeding corrupt practices out of the judiciary and expedite the court verdict on the various types of cases, as he has promised. Somehow, economic prospects have inspired greater optimism, perhaps occasioned by donor agencies favourable response. The militants words and deeds, after the Swat peace deal had been concluded, exposed their actual designs and served as an eye-opener to the people, and 49 percent of them backed military operation against them, which the IRI survey maintains is an all-time high figure. But that did not significantly raise the ratings of COAS General Ashfaq Kayani, who was favoured by 30 percent against the finding in the previous polls of 26 percent. The sentiment against rule by the army and preference for democratic order was also reflected in the context of providing a stable and prosperous Pakistan, with 77 percent going in for a democratic system of governance against a mere 20 percent for the military option. That augurs well for democracy as well as the country.