Much of the media coverage of the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey has focused on how Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still incredibly popular among Indians of all stripes. But another of the survey’s findings reveals more about Indians’ attitudes to government: more than half the people agreed that military rule was a “good way” of governing the country and even more felt a “strong leader” free of parliamentary or judicial checks would be a good choice.
India is one of only four countries where half or more citizens approve of military rule as a norm.
The Pew Global Attitudes survey is conducted annually to evaluate people’s attitudes towards social and political issues, and to assess their perception of international relations. This year, Pew surveyed over 2,400 Indians, rural and urban areas, across many states to know their positions on governance, political parties, and other countries.
India’s support for a “strong leader” was the highest among the countries surveyed. This may help explain why Modi, who campaigned on a platform promising firm leadership and is accused of bypassing Parliament and other institutions, is immensely popular.
Modi’s popularity as recorded in the latest survey conducted between February and March 2017 – 88% of the people surveyed approved of Modi’s leadership – is comparable to his approval rating in the months after taking office in 2014.
The desire for strong leadership may also reflect the feeling that corruption among public officials is the biggest problem in the country, after crime and terrorism.
Terrorism, meanwhile, has overtaken climate change as the global issue that most concerns Indians. Support for military rule may also be explained by this concern over security, coupled with the fact that the military enjoys the highest approval of any public institution, with 62% of the respondents indicating strong approval of its role.
The approval for a “strong leader” seems to extend beyond India’s borders. Although close to half of all Indians surveyed did not answer most questions about Donald Trump, the majority agreed he was “a strong leader” and most who answered said he was “well qualified” to be the United States president. This runs against the global trend of the US suffering a dent in approval ratings after Trump’s election.