THE latest IRI survey is a fair indicator of public opinion and should act as an eye-opener to those in power. The survey, compared with earlier exercises of the type, indicates the rise and fall in the public estimation of major political leaders, points to the issues that concern the public the most and reveals how people evaluate the performance of the government. The level of support for Mian Nawaz Sharif has increased to 82 percent which is higher than ever before. This can only be explained by the principled stand he has taken on the issue of the deposed judges and the impeachment of the President. For similar reasons perhaps, that of Mr Zardari has gone down to 45 percent which interestingly is two points lower than that of Makhdoom Amin Faheem. Prime Minister Gilani stands above both at 64 percent and leaves Mr Bilawal Zardari Bhutto behind by two points. As many as 67 percent people want to see Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan as President. Despite the growing dissatisfaction with the administration's policies, with 51 percent rating its performance as poor, and despite a realization on the part of 72 percent that their personal economic conditions have worsened over the past year, the elected government remains the most popular institution, indicating that the people still retain faith in civilian rule and democracy. There is optimism among the majority that things might improve in days to come. With the prices of essential commodities including flour, sugar and pulses continuing to rise, inflation remains naturally the topmost public concern. The majority of people have shown concern about religious extremism, but they support the government' policy of resolving the issue mainly through negotiations and development, rather than recourse to force. Attempts to downplay the issue of the restoration of judges have obviously failed to convince the people. As many as 86 percent still consider the matter important to them and 83 percent want their reinstatement. Similarly there is an overwhelming opposition to President Musharraf continuing to hold office. Only 11 percent of those questioned said they approved his performance while as many as 85 percent wanted him to be sent home. This indicates that the number of those demanding his removal continues to increase. The ruling coalition simply cannot afford to ignore the strong public sentiment if it wants to retain the confidence of the people. While Washington may like to retain President Musharraf in defiance of the public wishes on account of the trust it reposes in him, one fails to understand why the elected leadership continues to ignore the sentiment of the electorate. What is obvious is that the coalition partners would lose public confidence in case they continue to ignore the sentiments of those who elected them.