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Fact Check: Has the Pew research said that 85% Indians trust the Government?


While the survey numbers have been quoted correctly by newspapers, they did not mention any other details of the survey including the sample size.


Many newspapers in India picked up a PTI story which said that a new Pew survey indicated that 85% Indians trust their government, 55% support autocracy and 27% want a strong leader. Are these numbers put out by the Pew? What is the sample size of the survey? Here is a Fact Check.

What is this Pew Survey?

Pew Research Center is based out of the US and is known for public opinion polling on various issues. Pew has been conducting a global survey by name ‘Global Attitudes & Trends‘ that focusses on different themes each year. In 2017, the Pew survey referred to by the newspapers is a 38 nation survey about the support for democracy & its alternatives. This is a part of the Pew Research Center’s Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey. According to the Pew website, these surveys are conducted via telephone or face-to-face interviews, depending on the country. All the results are based on national samples.

What is the sample size for India?

According to the Pew website, India results are based on a sample size of 2464. All the interviews in India were face-to-face and were conducted in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi & Odia. The survey was conducted between February & March 2017.Indians trust the government_Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9

What did the survey say about India?

Support to Democracy: In India, 8% were completely committed to democracy (do not support any other alternative form of government) while 67% were less committed to democracy (willing to support at least another non-democratic form of government). This is against a global median of 23% committed democrats & 47% less committed.Indians trust the government_support to democracy

Satisfaction with Democracy: The survey found that the satisfaction levels with democracy were closely tied with what people felt about the economy. In India, 87% of those who felt economy was doing good were satisfied with democracy while only 53% of those who felt economic situation was bad were satisfied with democracy. Of all the people surveyed, 79% from India were satisfied with the way democracy was working, the highest such satisfaction level in the world along with countries like Sweden & Tanzania.Indians trust the government_satisfaction to democracyTrust in the Government: The survey found that the trust in the national government was closely tied with the public satisfaction levels with democracy. In most Asian & Sub-Saharan African countries, the trust in the government was higher. In India, 39% trusted the government a lot to do what is right for the country while another 46% trusted the government somewhat to do what is right for the country. In all, 85% expressed trust in the government. Only 5 countries reported a more than 80% trust in the government including India. Four of these countries are Asian.Trust in Government linked to Economic Growth: The survey found that people in countries with high economic growth had greater trust in their governments. India, Tanzania, Philippines etc. represented this trend. Trust in the government was also closely linked to how people felt about the economy. In India, 92% of those who felt that the economic situation was good expressed trust in the government while only 55% trusted the government among those who felt the economic situation was bad.Citizens okay with both Direct & Indirect say in policy: Among those surveyed in India, the support for both direct & indirect say in policy matters found support. 75% felt that a system where elected representatives decide on law is total good while 76% also felt that a system where citizens directly vote on major national issues is total good. The survey also found 65% support in India where experts (technocrats) instead of elected representatives make policy.Indians trust the government_support for indirect and direct say of peopleSupport for Autocracy & Military rule: Despite overwhelming support for democracy & its functioning in India, the survey also found 55% support for autocracy in India. The survey also says that 27% back a strong leader. Further,  53% of those surveyed in India expressed support for a military rule in India, surprising considering that India is hailed as a great example of a democracy.

What about Previous surveys?

The ‘Global Attitudes & Trends’ survey has published results on various issues in the past including approval for a country’s leadership, satisfaction with the economy etc.  In 2006, Pew research indicated that 80% from India felt optimistic about country’s progress in the next 5 years. In 2009, the survey reported 67% viewed Global Warming as a serious problem and 84% felt that the environment should be protected even at the cost of growth & jobs. In the same year, 73% felt that the economy is in good shape.

The 2010 survey indicated that 75% Indians saw Lashkar-e-Taiba & Pakistan as the greatest threats while 83% wanted relations with Pakistan to improve. In 2010, 57% felt that the economy is in good shape, down from 73% in 2009. In the same year, 85% felt that the government was doing a good job in handling the economy.

In late 2013 & early 2014, the Pew survey highlighted the growing discontent with the then UPA government. The survey found that 70% were dissatisfied with the way things were going in the country, 42% felt the economy was not doing well.

The 2015 survey report highlighted 87% favourable view for Prime Minister Narendra Modi compared to 52% for Manmohan Singh in 2013. In the same year, the survey found that 74% were satisfied with the state of economy compared to 57% in 2013. The 2016 survey 81% had a favourable view of the Prime Minister compared to 87% in 2015. At the same time, satisfaction with the state of economy increased to 80% from 74% in 2015.

Claim Check: Are the newspaper reports true then?

While the newspaper reports cited the correct numbers, they did not mention other details of the survey like sample size, period & form of the survey.


About Author

Rakesh has been working on issues related to Right to Information (RTI) for a decade. He is a Data/Information enthusiast & passionate about Governance/Policy issues.

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