Multi-nation survey finds Indians increasingly unhappy with state of democracy

Though most Indians remained satisfied with the way democracy was working in their country, the number of those dissatisfied had grown, registering the biggest jump among the more than two dozen countries surveyed for a new study released Monday.

The number of Indians dissatisfied jumped by 22 points from 11% in 2017 to 33% in 2018, said the study by Pew Research Center, which was the most among the 27 nations surveyed. Though those satisfied were still in majority at 54%, which was higher than 40% and 42% in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively and the 27-nation median of 45% (51% of them were dissatisfied.

But there was a party-line split on the perceon of the functioning of democracy across the board. Dissatisfaction was higher among people who did not support the BJP-led ruling National Democratic Alliance than among its supporters, the study found. While only 16% of those who supported the National Democratic Alliance were dissatisfied with the way democracy was working in the country, 42% of those who did not support the ruling coalition were dissatisfied, according to India-specific data provided by Pew in response to a request from Hindustan Times.

India was also no exceon to the “strong” correlation found by the survey generally between assessments of the functioning of democracy and views of the state of the economy — dissatisfaction was linked to poor or bad economy. While 12% of Indians thought the economy was in a bad shape in 2017, 30% for them subscribed to that dismal view in 2018.

“India stands out as the country in which concerns about the economy increased the most of any of the 27 surveyed,” said Laura Silver, a senior researcher at Pew.

Asked how relevant these findings, which were based on a survey conducted a year ago in the spring of 2018, could be in the elections currently underway in India, Silver said that though “some level of fluctuation in people’s satisfaction with democracy is possible (over time … some of the patterns we’ve identified here could be relevant for the Indian election”.

Silver suggested three findings that could. Two of them were, as already reported. One, dissatisfaction with the working of democracy was higher among people who don’t support the ruling NDA; and, two, those unhappy with the economy will be most dissatisfied.

The third finding, true also for other countries, was the impact of frustrations with political corruon on the assessment about the functioning of democracy. In India, 64% agreed with the statement posed to them in the questionnaire that the statement “most politicians are corrupt” describes their country well. People who feel this way tend to be more dissatisfied with democracy, the report said.

That was 10 points above the 27-nation median of 54% of respondents who believed politicians are generally corrupt, reflecting the mood in the 27 countries surveyed, some of whom seemed more frustrated than others. In Russia, for instance, 82% of those surveyed said they agreed politicians were corrupt, and so did 70% of the Italians and Hungarians and 69% of the Americans.

Other factors that could have an impact, though much “weaker”. included the perceon of respondents about the the rights of people to express themselves, a fundamental right. Of Indians not satisfied with the state of democracy in their country, 52% agreed with one of the questions posed to them that free speech was not protected in the country.