SURVEYS ARE wonderful things. They not only give you an idea of what people feel about all kinds of issues, but also provide you the chance to air your views. And occasionally, there’s the simple pleasure of impressing the surveyor with the depth and sophistication of your tastes or of gently leading him up the garden path.
One of the best-known surveys is the annual Pew Global Attitudes Survey, which tells us what countries think of each other. The most interesting part in the recently published 2008 survey is about how people in other countries perceive Indians. The Brits love us the most, with a whopping 75 per cent of them viewing us favourably. The survey probably went something like this — ‘Q: What’s your view about India? A: That’s the place where chicken tikka masala came from, right? Must be a fantastic country?’
No prizes for guessing who dislikes us the most — 57 per cent of Pakistanis do. There’s no need to feel depressed about that, though, because 73 per cent of Indians, finds the survey, have an unfavourable view of Pakistan. We dislike them more than they dislike us.
What about our bigger neighbour, China? Forty-six per cent of us have a favourable view of that country, but this seems to be a case of unrequited love, because only 29 per cent of the Chinese like us. On the other hand, fully 76 per cent of Pakistanis love China. ‘Q: Do you guys like China? A: Of course, my enemy’s enemy is my friend?’ No wonder then that 61 per cent of Pakistanis believe that China’s growing military power is a good thing, which is the highest percentage among all the nations surveyed, with Nigeria coming in second.
The Nigerians seem to like most people, with a majority viewing Japan as well as India positively. They also like the US a lot, with 64 per cent of them having a favourable view of the superpower, not too far below the 66 per cent of Indians who love the US. What’s more, 56 per cent of Indians believe that the US will succeed in Iraq. That makes us more optimistic about the Iraq war than the Americans themselves, 40 per cent of whom think they’ll succeed.
But the most optimistic are the Nigerians, 61 per cent of whom believe the war will be won. The Nigerian survey probably went on these lines: ‘Do you like the US? Of course. What about China? Great country. India? Love it. What about Bhutan as a superpower? You bet. You think we could win in Iraq? Sure, bash them up.’
Most people seem to prefer the American people to the US — for example, while 70 per cent of Britons like Americans, only 53 per cent of them say they have a favourable view of the US. India is an exception, with more people saying they like the US and fewer people liking Americans. ‘Q : Do you like the Americans? A: Hmmmm...they’re ok, I guess, but they talk funny, eat too much, act weird sometimes. Q: What about the US? A: Oh, lovely place, the malls, the moolah, my cousin stays there. Someday I’ll get a green card.’
Do we also admire America’s love of freedom and its long tradition of protecting civil liberties? We seem to be a bit confused about that. While 65 per cent of Indians believe that the US government respects the personal freedoms of its people, 59 per cent believe so does the Iranian government, while 49 per cent have the same opinion about the Chinese government. ‘ Q: Which do you believe best protects civil liberties: a constitutional democracy with separation of powers, a theocracy or a communist dictatorship?’ Long pause. ‘A: Huh?....Ummmm...tough one...good question...let’s see..the first one, no the third...I’ll play safe and go with all of the above.’
But the last word comes from the recent US Religious Landscape Survey, which found that one in five of those who identified themselves as atheists said they believed in god. “It may very well be that they don’t really know what atheist means. It sounds good so they answered it,” said one of the surveyors.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint