Twenty-nine per cent of the people surveyed said they would vote for the PPP, 25 per cent for the main opposition PML-N and 20 per cent for Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf.
Respondents were asked who they had voted for most frequently in the past and voting histories indicated the PML-N's vote bank had remained stable while the PPP's appeared to have significantly declined.
The Political Barometer survey, conducted by Herald magazine and Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank, covered 1,283 respondents in 54 districts across Pakistan.
In line with expectations, 55 per cent of respondents who identified themselves as Sindhis said they would vote for the PPP in the general election expected to be held by May.
Forty-four per cent of Hindko speakers intend to vote for the PML-N.
Forty-four per cent of Hindko speakers also support Imran Khan's party, suggesting a close contest between the two parties within that demographic.
Thirty-four per cent of Pashtuns are in favour of Khan's party while only 11 per cent said they would vote for the Awami National Party, which currently rules the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
In keeping with the PPP's pro-poor image, approximately a third of those with a monthly family income of up to Rs 30,000 plan to vote for the party.
Among higher income brackets, support for the PPP dropped to 11 per cent.
A majority of those earning over Rs 2,50,000 said they intend to vote for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement or the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (33 per cent each).
Dispelling the impression that support for Imran Khan's party is concentrated in younger generations, the survey indicated that the party derives support from all ages.
While 23 per cent of those in the 18-to-35 age group said they would vote for the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, about 19 per cent of those aged between 36 and 70 claimed the same.
Thirty-three per cent of those aged 36-to-50 supported the PPP, while 46 per cent of those over 70 preferred the PML-N.
From a given list, respondents identified poverty, corruption, the energy crisis, illiteracy and extremism as the top five issues that Pakistan faces today.
No issue received more than 17 per cent of the vote, indicating an electorate with varying priorities.
Twenty-seven per cent of respondents – higher than for any other party ¿ said the PPP would be most effective in addressing the identified issues, even though 59 per cent rated the PPP government's performance as "poor" or "very poor".
Approximately 21 per cent of respondents admitted to never having voted before.
There is apparently a negative correlation between inclination to vote and income level – 38 per cent of those with monthly family incomes above Rs 2,50,000 had never voted, compared to 13 per cent of those earning less than Rs 3,600,
the lowest income bracket.
Contrary to the perception that more education might equal greater political participation, 87 per cent of those with no education claimed to have voted in three or more elections while only 38 per cent of those with at least a bachelor's degree had done so.
Ninety-four per cent of respondents said they were registered to vote in the upcoming polls.
According to Abid Suleri, executive director of SDPI, the outcome of the elections could unfold in a number of ways – the PPP could form an electoral alliance with its current allies, including the ANP, MQM and PML-Q or a grand anti-PPP alliance, comprising the PML-N, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami but not Imran Khan's party could be formed.
Based on the findings of this survey, the PPP and its allies might secure 38 per cent of the vote.
The anti-PPP alliance could secure 30 per cent.
Along with the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, this alliance could give the PPP a difficult time in parliament.
The survey clearly indicated that no single party currently stands to sweep the upcoming polls.
It also appears that the PPP will have to retain its current allies to maintain political clout.