By Sanjeev Miglani
NEWDELHI (Reuters) – Most Indians are happy with the direction of the country and economic prospects for the next generation, a Pew survey published weeks ahead of general elections showed, although the level of satisfaction has fallen over time.
Lack of employment opportunities is India’s biggest problem, said more than three-quarters of those polled, and that had not changed through most of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure, the survey found.
The survey published on Monday said concerns about terrorism and Pakistan loomed large even before last month’s crisis triggered by an attack on a security convoy in Indian Kashmir that Pakistan claims as its own.
Three-quarters of Indians believe Pakistan to be a threat and 59 percent said terrorism had become worse.
“But despite these worries, most Indian adults are satisfied with the direction of their country and the economic prospects of the next generation,” Pew said, summing up the survey result.
Of those polled, 54 percent said they were satisfied with the way democracy is working in India. But satisfaction had declined 25 percentage points from 2017, when 79 percent voiced approval.
Men are more likely than women to give Indian democracy a thumbs-up, though one in five women decline to offer an opinion, it said.
There were 2,521 respondents in the Pew Survey run from May 23 to July 23, 2018, the final year of Modi’s term before the election, at which about 900 million people are eligible to vote.
Modi is considered the frontrunner to win the election that begins on April 11, but his lead is narrowing and several polls have suggested his Hindu nationalist-led group may fall short of a clear majority required to rule.
Renewed tension with arch foe Pakistan has shifted attention somewhat from bread-and-butter issues to national security over the past month, to the advantage of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Critics have accused the BJP of creating a climate of fear among India’s Muslim minority by promoting a Hindu-first agenda and targeting it for the slaughter of cows they consider sacred and have sometimes questioned its allegiance to India.
The BJP denies bias but says it opposes appeasement of any community.
Muslims make up about 14 percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)