Negative opinion of India increased worldwide, 40% lack confidence in Modi: Pew survey

The survey found that though 7 in 10 Indians believe India has recently become more influential, only 28% of people in 19 other countries agree

Indian prime mInister Narendra Modi (Photo: DW)
Indian prime mInister Narendra Modi (Photo: DW)

Ashlin Mathew

Just as political leaders are gathering in New Delhi for the G20* summit, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that a median of 34 per cent have unfavourable views of India and a 40 per cent median say they lack confidence in Prime Minister Modi.

The survey has found that though 7 in 10 Indians believe their country has recently become more influential, only a median of 28 per cent of adults across 19 other countries in the world think so. However, a median of 46 per cent of adults hold a favourable view of India—but a lacklustre 37 per cent (median) only say they have confidence in Modi.


The Group of Twenty (G20) comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States) and the European Union.

In those 19 countries where the survey was conducted, respondents were most inclined to say that India’s influence had not changed much in recent years (48 per cent median), but only 19 per cent of Indians agree with this view.

A median of 28 per cent said India’s influence was getting stronger, while 13 per cent said it was getting weaker. Indians were just as likely as those in other countries to think India’s influence has become weaker in recent years (13 per cent being true for both Indians and the 19-country median).

These are among the findings of a major new study on India’s global influence conducted by the Pew Research Center. The survey examines views of India and its political leaders in and outside of India, as well as Indians’s views of other countries.

The survey was conducted amongst 30,861 people in 24 countries, including India, from 20 February to 22 May 2023.

Interestingly, only a median of 37 per cent across 12 countries, most of which are middle-income, report having confidence in Modi to make the right foreign policy choices. Argentines are particularly sceptical. Just 12 per cent in Argentina have confidence in the Indian prime minister. (At least 1 in 10 in each of these countries also do not offer an opinion on Modi.)

How Indians see India

The survey reveals that roughly 7 in 10 Indians say India’s influence in the world in recent years has been getting stronger. In contrast, 19 per cent say India has been getting weaker, and 13 per cent say its influence has not changed.

Those who support the parties in the National Democratic Alliance (which includes the Bharatiya Janata Party) are much more likely to say India’s influence is on the rise: 77 per cent of those who identify with the governing parties say this, compared with 60 per cent of those who don’t identify with these parties.

Men, too, are more likely than women to believe India is getting stronger on the world stage (71 per cent vs 65 per cent, respectively).

Opinions on Modi are mixed

Around the world, opinions on Modi are mixed, with a median of 40 per cent saying they have no confidence in Modi to do the right thing regarding world affairs and a median of 37 per cent saying they have at least some confidence. However, substantial minorities in most countries did not share an opinion.

Mexicans and Brazilians are especially critical of Modi, who is often described as promoting a Hindu nationalist ideology. At least half in these countries say they do not have confidence in him to make the right foreign policy choices. Those in Argentina, South Africa, South Korea and the US are also more likely to lack confidence in India’s prime minister, if they offer an opinion at all.

In contrast, those in Japan, Kenya and Nigeria are more likely to have confidence in Modi’s abilities. In Indonesia, Japan and South Korea — countries where trend data is available — confidence in Modi has remained largely unchanged since the Pew Research Center first asked this question in 2015.

The Pew survey did not ask respondents in Europe about Modi, however.

Negative opinion of India has increased

What is notable is that there is a dent in India's image in Europe.

Favourable views of India have declined by roughly 10 percentage points or more in all five of the European countries (France, Spain, Germany, Poland and the UK) where past data is available.

The greatest change is seen in France, where just 39 per cent now have a favourable view of India, compared with 70 per cent in 2008. In Spain, 49 per cent have an unfavourable view of India. About half in the Netherlands and Spain also have a critical opinion of the country.

UK has seen a 9 per cent drop in favouring India since 2008. In 2008, 75 per cent had favourable views of India and only 9 per cent had unfavourable views of India. However, in 2023, the negative opinion of India has risen to 23 per cent and those with a favourable opinion of the country have dropped to 66 per cent.

There’s a dip in India’s rating across the world, actually.

In the US, 63 per cent were positive about India in 2015 and this has dropped to 51 per cent in 2023. In 2016, 52 per cent of Canadians were positive about India, but it has dropped to 47 per cent in 2023. Though in 2008, 60 per cent Germans saw India favourably, it has fallen to 47 per cent now.

In 2018, 57 per cent Indonesians had a favourable opinion of India, but the figure now is 45 per cent. In Japan too, our favourability ratings have dipped slightly to 55 per cent in 2023 from 58 per cent 2018, while in South Korea, it has dipped to 58 per cent from 64 per cent.

Favourable views of India are more common among supporters of some populist parties in Europe. In Greece, supporters of Greek Solution, a right-wing populist party, and supporters of Syriza, a left-wing populist party, are more likely than non-supporters to hold a favourable view of India.

In Indonesia and South Korea, where opinions of India were last recorded in 2018, favourable views of India have declined by 12 and 6 percentage points, respectively. Among the African and Latin American countries, which were last asked about their views on India in 2013, evaluations have become more critical in Brazil (-14 points) and South Africa (-8), but more positive in Mexico (+18) and Nigeria (+15).

As expected, a 57 per cent majority of Indians see Russia favourably, while a median of only 14 per cent across 22 countries have a positive view of Russia.

Though several right-wingers think that India has gained popularity across the world during the Modi regime from 2014 onwards, a surprising 40 per cent of US citizens have not heard of Modi, they say. This includes men and those with more education in several countries.

Younger adults are generally more likely to offer an opinion on India, it was found.

About a third in Hungary and roughly a quarter in Brazil, Greece, Indonesia and Mexico also refrained from answering the question on India.

Israelis and right-wingers have a positive opinion of India

Views of India are most positive in Israel, where 71 per cent say they have a favourable view of the country. India and Israel are both part of the I2U2 — a partnership among India, Israel, the US and the United Arab Emirates — and India is the top destination for Israeli arms exports.

Political ideology also plays a role in how India is evaluated in some cases. In Hungary, Australia and Israel, those on the political right report more favourable views of India than those on the left.

In contrast, South Africans see India more critically than favourably. About half say they have an unfavourable view of the country — including 36 per cent who hold a very unfavourable view— while just 28 per cent report a favourable opinion.

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