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Friday, July 13, 2012

Attitudes and beliefs in India

We generally know remarkably little about what the people of India feel and think. Politicians have an interest in emphasising ideological biases. Systematic surveys about attitudes and beliefs are generally not taking place. Under these conditions, I find it useful to take whatever scraps of evidence one can get from efforts rooted outside India which are measuring attitudes and beliefs in India.

One important institution working on these things is the Pew Research Center which runs the `Pew Global Attitudes Project'. They regularly runs surveys in India, and I have blogged about some of these results before.

Some interesting new results were released yesterday. The focus of the study is on gloom in the world economy. With apologies to the authors, I'm going to ignore many elements of that effort, for I found some sub-components which interested me more. Their survey methods seem to be quite good; a sample of 4018 adults spread over a large swathe of India.

Are you better off than you were five years ago?

The basic engine of high growth is delivering: a lot of people feel they are better off than conditions prevalent five years ago. There is a holdout of roughly a quarter of India which says they are worse off.

Can most succeed if they work hard?

Do we have a Calvinist ethos? In the overall average, 67 per cent of India believes that most succeed if they work hard. This is behind the US (which is at 77 per cent) and Pakistan (81 per cent) but ahead of all countries in Europe and also China (45 per cent) and Japan (40 per cent).

The rich are more in favour of this proposition. There are 8 countries where this belief varies strongly by income:

While the overall average is 67 per cent, among the rich we have a much higher number (74 per cent in support). This is next only to the US. This drops off to 64 per cent among the poor. It is interesting that the middle class is what feels the least good about hard work, with 62 per cent. We have a bit more of a Calvinist ethos at the two extremes of the income distribution.

Support for the market economy

Support for the market economy is strong. Four large countries are ahead of India on this score: Brazil, China, Germany, the US. The UK is the same as India on this. Is there support for the market economy in these six countries because the outlook for these countries for the next decade is good, or is it the other way around?

The rich are particularly upbeat when compared with the poor

On an array of questions, the Indian rich are much more optimistic then the poor.

Finally, who's to blame

Those who said that economic conditions were bad were asked an additional question: Who is to blame. The results are unsurprising, for us:

92 per cent of India knows who is at fault: The Indian State. There isn't much anti-finance in India nor is there much anti-US. In places like Brazil, 29 per cent blame finance and in places like Pakistan, 32 per cent blame the US.

Most of us generally expect that mainstream attitudes in India would be quite left-wing, pro-State, anti-market, etc. The evidence does not seem to support these preconceptions.


  1. Thanks for this wonderful post. Good read

  2. Hi. Just a quick nitpick on the assertion " ... 92 per cent of India knows who is at fault". The question on who's to blame was asked only to the 45% who said the economy is somewhat / very bad in Q14. This is 45% , compared to the 49% who said it's somewhat / very good. Assuming it's representative of India, the estimate of those blaming the State is then ~ 41%. Thx! / Nary

  3. This is a very high percentage blaming the Indian state. I am not to familiar with what the current Indian government does, but I don't think they can have such a big impact on the economy. A big factor is the international financial crisis when you ask me.
    Nice article. I enjoyed it!

  4. Is it true that you are being sued by MCX for defamation? This is ridiculous.

    Why MCX should get off its high horse on Ajay Shah

    We, supporters of this blog should do something about this.

  5. Awesome post i really like it thanks for share


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