The PML-N and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) appear to be neck-and-neck in the race for power in Pakistan as they enjoy almost the same voter approval ratings in a new survey released on Wednesday.
Over 25 per cent of respondents in the poll conducted by Herald magazine said they intend to vote for the PML-N in the May 11 general election while 24.98 per cent said their vote would go to Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
Only 17.74 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which led the outgoing government that ruled Pakistan for the past five years.
In Punjab, which has more than half of the parliamentary seats going to the polls, the PML-N appeared to be the party of choice, with 38.66 per cent of respondents saying they would vote for it, followed by PTI at 30.46 per cent.
The PPP trailed way behind at 14.33 per cent.
In the PPP's traditional stronghold of Sindh, the party enjoyed the biggest share of support with 35.21 per cent of respondents saying they would vote for it, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement with 19.37 per cent, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf with 8.45 per cent and PML-N with 8.1 per cent.
The PPP continues to be backed by more people in Sindh even though 50 per cent of respondents in the province rated the federal government's performance as poor or very poor.
In Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, Imran Khan's party was leading with the support of 35.41 per cent of respondents while the PML-N (with 12.92 per cent support) and the Awami National Party (with 12.44 per cent support) are distant runners-up.
The Balochistan National Party-Mengal has the highest backing among poll respondents in Balochistan, at 19.18 per cent, with the PPP a distant second at 8.22 per cent.
The two parties leading nationally, PML-N and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, only have 2.74 per cent and 5.48 per cent support, respectively, among respondents in Balochistan.
The poll covered 1,285 respondents and was conducted by the Herald in March in 42 districts and two tribal agencies across Pakistan.
It also shows a high level of distrust among respondents about the polling process, with 65.6 per cent of them saying that polls in Pakistan are not free, fair and transparent.
Only 29 per cent of respondents believed the Election Commission had the capacity to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, while the number of those who are unsure about it was much higher at 49 per cent.
While respondents showed an eagerness to vote (over 66 per cent of them said they would vote no matter whether the polls are free and fair or not), a significant portion (40 per cent) said the biggest disincentive to vote comes from the feeling that the government policies will not change.
Meanwhile, the results of an exclusive survey, conducted by Herald among 10 experts on Pakistan's electoral politics, indicates that the May 11 election will result in a National Assembly in which none of the three leading parties will win a simple majority.
The survey, conducted in March and April among experts from academia, think tanks and civil society organisations, showed the PML-N getting the highest percentage of seats (with 34.89 per cent), PPP getting the second highest percentage (24.89 per cent) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf getting the third highest percentage (12.11 per cent).