New Delhi: More than half of the country’s population is happy with the way things are going in the country even as a majority of the people believe that various challenges facing India have become much worse in the years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, a Pew Research Center survey has found.
An overwhelming 76 per cent of Indians identified unemployment as the country’s biggest challenge.
Importantly, even though the survey was carried out much before the Pulwama terror attack that took place in February, three-fourth of those surveyed perceived Pakistan as a ‘threat’ with 65 per cent terming terrorism as a ‘very big problem’.
The survey by Washington-based Pew was conducted among 2,521 respondents in India and is around nine months old. It was carried out from 23 May to 23 July 2018, but was released Monday.
According to the survey, 55 per cent Indians are happy with “the way things are going in their nation today”, but “when asked whether various challenges facing India have gotten better or worse in the past five years, few Indians voice a positive judgment”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP is seeking a second term with the Lok Sabha elections beginning 11 April.
The Modi years
The survey finds 55 per cent to be happy with the way things are going, and 65 per cent said the financial situation of average people in India is better today than it was 20 years ago.
However, the percentage of people happy with the way things are going has gone down from 70 per cent in 2017, and matches the level of public satisfaction in 2015 — when the Modi government completed its first year in office. But, still the “Modi government seems better off and the mood remains much higher than in the last two years of the previous government of Manmohan Singh”.
To be sure, circumstances have altered since the survey was conducted. Electorally, the BJP lost three Hindi heartland states to the Congress in the December 2018 elections, but politically the party has got a boost by managing to seal its alliances well in time for the Lok Sabha elections, while also getting a grip on the narrative after centering the discourse on national security.
The survey was conducted at a time when the opposition’s attempts to stitch together a grand alliance against the BJP were visible and aggressive, but have since seen sharp a downward slide.
Lack of jobs, corruption in the Rafale deal and rural distress were key issues raised by the opposition to target the Modi government. However, those issues, relegated to the background with national security at the forefront now after the Pulwama attack and the retaliatory air strikes by the Indian Air Force on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot.
According to the survey, just 21 per cent said job opportunities have become better in the last five years under the Modi government, while 67 per cent said things have become worse. Further, 65 per cent said prices have got worse, and an equal number felt corruption has worsened and a significant 59 per cent said terrorism was worse.
“Just 28 per cent said communal relations have improved, while 45 per cent said they have gotten worse,” the survey stated. The Modi government has received widespread criticism from various quarters for a series of beef-related communal lynching as well as for attempting to pursue its Hindutva agenda through measures like the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
The biggest concerns
As per the survey, lack of employment opportunities is seen as “India’s biggest challenge, with 76 per cent of the adults saying it is a very big problem”.
Meanwhile, 73 per cent believed that rising prices is a “very big problem”, 66 per cent said corrupt officials, 65 per cent said terrorism and 64 per cent felt crime are very big problems. In each case, however, the concern was found to be “down significantly” from 2017.
Considering terrorism has seen such a dominant concern among people, the Pulwama terror attack will likely to further add to it. With that, the BJP would be hoping to use its muscular nationalism image and PM Modi’s bold narrative of being a decisive leader to tilt the scale in its favour.
Corruption remains a big area of concern with 64 per cent stating that most politicians are corrupt. Around 69 per cent of both the BJP and Congress supporters “share the view that elected leaders are corrupt”.
More than half the sample, meanwhile, was “satisfied with the way democracy was working”.
Pakistan is seen as a threat by 76 per cent Indians, and of those, 63 per cent termed it as “a very serious threat”. “Indians from many walks of life share this sentiment”, the survey stated.
PM Modi’s foreign policy and diplomatic efforts may have just paid off with the survey stating “international perceptions of India have been mostly positive” throughout the Modi government’s term. “Majorities in all five Asia-Pacific countries surveyed have a favorable view of India,” the survey found.
However, there is a significant gap between how Indians view India’s stature globally, and how the rest of the world sees it. “While 56 per cent of Indians believe their country is playing a bigger role in world affairs than a decade ago, a median of just 28 per cent across 26 nations polled agree (to it)”, Pew has found.
Meanwhile, over 70 per cent Indians believe trade is good for the country.