Sep 11, 2007

Bin Laden more popular than Musharraf in Pakistan: New Poll

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf -- a key U.S. ally -- is less popular in his own country than al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a poll of Pakistanis conducted last month by an anti-terrorism organization. An anti-U.S. rally in Karachi, Pakistan, this past August. Additionally, nearly three-fourths of poll respondents said they oppose U.S. military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan, according to results from the poll conducted by the independent polling organization Terror Free Tomorrow. "We have conducted 23 polls all over the Muslim world, and this is the most disturbing one we have conducted," said Ken Ballen, the group's head. "Pakistan is the one Muslim nation that has nuclear weapons, and the people who want to use them against us -- like the Taliban and al Qaeda -- are more popular there than our allies like Musharraf." The poll was conducted for Terror Free Tomorrow by D3 Systems of Vienna, Virginia., and the Pakistan Institute for Public Opinion. Interviews were conducted August 18-29, face-to-face with 1,044 Pakistanis across 105 urban and rural sampling points in all four provinces across the nation. Households were randomly selected. According to poll results, bin Laden has a 46 percent approval rating. Musharraf's support is 38 percent. U.S. President George W. Bush's approval: 9 percent. Asked their opinion on the real purpose of the U.S.-led war on terror, 66 percent of poll respondents said they believe the United States is acting against Islam or has anti-Muslim motivation. Others refused to answer the question or said they did not know. "We failed in winning hearts and minds in Pakistan," Ballen told CNN. "In fact, only 4 percent said we had a good motivation in the war on terrorism." Seventy-four percent said they oppose U.S. military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan. After American relief efforts following the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan's Kashmir region, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a positive opinion of the United States, according to the poll. But as of last month, only 19 percent reported a favorable opinion. Meanwhile, al Qaeda has a 43 percent approval rate; the Taliban has a 38 percent approval rate; and local radical extremist groups had an approval rating between 37 percent to 49 percent. Views of U.S. could improve, responses indicate There were a few bright spots in the poll results, however. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto -- a relatively moderate and progressive figure, as well as a woman -- had a 63 percent approval rating. Seventy-five percent of poll respondents said suicide bombings are rarely or never justified. And a majority of Pakistanis said their opinion of the United States would improve if, among other things, there were increases in American aid to Pakistan, American business investments and the number of visas issued for Pakistanis to work in the United States. Terror Free Tomorrow is a non-partisan, nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., and according to its Web site is "the only organization dedicated to a new strategic vision: Leading the fight against terror by winning the popular support that empowers global terrorists."E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN Analyst Peter Bergen contributed to this report.