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How Popular is Imran Khan?

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s approval ratings remain low as soaring inflation and opposition pressure mount.

imran khan popularity graph chart gallup Pakistan 2022
Pakistan's embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan faces low approval ratings and high inflation as his political foes go for the jugular. (Image Credit: Chatham House and Guilhem Vellut)

Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to face the heat from the opposition, disgruntled allied parties, and even disaffected members of his party. He’s likely to soon face a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. But how does the Pakistani public view him? Is Imran Khan as unpopular with the public as he appears to be with the majority of National Assembly members? Has he lost the public’s confidence?

Latest Survey Results on Imran Khan’s Popularity

Imran Khan has a low approval rating, according to a Gallup Pakistan survey conducted over the course of December 2021 into January 2022. Only 36 percent of those polled found Khan’s performance as prime minister to be good or very good.

But these latest figures mark a six-point gain for Khan from roughly two years ago, when only 30 percent of Pakistanis surveyed had a positive view of his performance. And they’re closer to the 40 percent approval rating he received early in his term in December 2018. In May 2019, the Imran Khan approval rating stood at 58 percent.

These figures do not account for the months of February and March, which witnessed a rise in global energy prices and domestic political turmoil. But they do suggest that there might be a floor to Khan’s unpopularity, given the persistence of inflation and governance challenges, especially in Punjab.

imran khan popularity graph chart gallup Pakistan 2022
The latest Gallup Pakistan survey shows both Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif as surpassing Imran Khan and other politicians in popularity by far. (Image Credit: PakistanPolicy.com)

Khan is less popular in the country’s most populous provinces, Punjab and Sindh, where a majority have unfavorable views of his tenure. But he remains popular in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or KPK, where favorable views of him (44 percent) outweighed the negative (39 percent).

Confidence in Khan’s ability to govern is low, even among those who voted for his party in 2018. A survey conducted by IPSOS Pakistan in December 2021 shows that a majority of those polled (55 percent) and even a plurality of Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) voters (46 percent) said that they were dissatisfied with the PTI government’s performance in 2021.

Despite Khan’s low approval rating, his party may have a slight edge when it comes to voter choice for the next general elections. According to Gallup Pakistan, 23 percent of those surveyed said that they would choose PTI, while 22 percent would vote for Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). But this poll was conducted before the emergence of dissident factions in his party ahead of the vote of no confidence.

Pakistan’s double-digit inflation rate remains Khan’s chief policy challenge, with 64 percent stating in the latest Gallup Pakistan poll that inflation was the top issue for them — the highest since August 2018. And this is why his government decided in late February to cut domestic energy prices despite a surge in global natural gas and oil costs.

Khan may not survive a vote of no confidence in the coming weeks, but his party — if it coheres — remains a formidable electoral force. At the national level, Khan’s main challenger will be the PML-N. The other national party, the Pakistan Peoples Party or PPP, and its leaders, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Asif Ali Zardari, remain unpopular outside of Sindh.

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