In Pakistan, Growing Concerns About Extremism, Continuing Discontent with U.S.

Aug 13, 2009

Pakistanis see their country in crisis. They give their national government lower ratings than at any time in this decade, and almost no one is satisfied with national conditions. Crime and terrorism are seen as major problems by virtually everyone. And huge percentages of Pakistanis also see their country struggling mightily with corruption and a deteriorating economy.

A long-standing concern about Islamic extremism has grown even greater over the past year. No fewer than 69% of the Pakistanis questioned worry that extremists could take control of the country. At the same time, indifference and mixed opinions about both al Qaeda and the Taliban have given way to a strong condemnation of both groups. In 2008, just 33% held a negative view of the Taliban; today, 70% rate it unfavorably. Similarly, the percentage of Pakistanis with an unfavorable opinion of al Qaeda has jumped from 34% to 61% in the last year.

However, growing concern about Islamic extremism has not resulted in an improved view of the United States. Opinions of America and its people remain extremely negative. Barack Obama's global popularity is not evident in Pakistan, and America's image remains as tarnished in that country as it was in the Bush years. Only 22% of Pakistanis think the U.S. takes their interests into account when making foreign policy decisions, essentially unchanged from 21% since 2007. Fully 64% of the public regards the U.S. as an enemy, while only 9% describe it as a partner.

Further, many express serious concerns about the U.S.-led effort to combat terrorism, both globally and in Pakistan specifically. In particular, many who are aware of the drone strikes targeting extremist leaders believe these strikes are causing too many civilian deaths and are being carried out by the U.S. without the consent of the Pakistani government.

However, for all the anti-American sentiment, the new survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project also finds an openness to improving relations with the U.S. and considerable support for the idea of working with it to combat terrorism. By a margin of 53% to 29% Pakistanis say it is important that relations between the two countries improve.

Read the full report In Pakistan, Growing Concerns About Extremism, Continuing Discontent with U.S. on the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project Web site.

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