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5 Things to Know About the World's Biggest Election
World

5 Things to Know About the World's Biggest Election

by Benedict Vigers

LONDON -- Millions of voters have already cast their ballots in India’s six-week-long election, in which incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is largely expected to win a rare third consecutive term. As a country, India has changed in many respects under his government, both domestically and on the international stage.

Before the election results are announced in early June, here are five things to know during the world’s biggest-ever democratic exercise, based on 澳门六合彩官方网址’s surveys in India in late 2023:

1. Indians' Faith in Their National Government, Modi Remains Solid

A significant majority (82%) of Indians expressed confidence in their national government in 2023, as they have every year since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014.

In 2013, the year before Modi was first elected, a majority of Indians (56%) expressed faith in their national government. Throughout Modi’s two terms, confidence has never dipped below 69%, and it has hovered near 80% for the past five years.

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This means that more Indians have faith in their national government than people in many other countries do. Only residents of Tanzania (90%), Uzbekistan (89%), Burkina Faso and Singapore (88% each) had statistically higher confidence in their respective governments than Indians did last year.

Modi’s own approval ratings tell a similar story: 73% of Indians surveyed late last year said they approve of his leadership. Since his reelection in 2019, Modi’s approval ratings have not dropped below 70%.

2. Economic Optimism Slightly Subdued

As the economy recovered from the shock of COVID-19, nearly six in 10 Indians thought their living standards and local economy were getting better in 2022.

But the post-pandemic rise in economic optimism stalled in 2023, even though majorities continued to think the economy (56%) and living standards (54%) were improving. Since 2015, the year after Modi came to power, a majority of Indians have felt their economy is getting better each year apart from 2018 (49%).

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Perceptions of the local job market are somewhat less positive. Forty-four percent thought 2023 was a good time to find a job, down significantly from 53% the year before. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has tried to make unemployment a key issue of the campaign. Long-standing issues also remain in people’s ability to afford basic needs. Half of Indians struggled to afford food at times in 2023, and 43% struggled to afford shelter.

Despite the daily challenges that many Indians face in finding employment or meeting their basic needs, the economy is still buttressed by high levels of confidence in financial institutions (88%) -- among the highest in the world in 2023.

India is also the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with some projections forecasting annual growth of around 7% until 2030. Given current trends, the Indian economy is projected to become the world’s third largest by 2027, overtaking the economies of Germany and Japan.

3. Making the Most of the Demographic Dividend?

Worldwide, one in five people under the age of 25 live in India, with this cohort accounting for nearly half of the country’s burgeoning population. In many respects, life looked more hopeful for this demographic dividend in 2023 than it did for similar groups in many of the region’s other countries.

Relatively few young people -- those between 15 and 29 -- are looking to leave India. Ten percent would like to move abroad permanently, which, while double the 5% of those 30 and older who say the same, is the lowest percentage among young people in South Asian countries.

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Young people’s hopes for the future are also generally higher than they have been for much of the past decade. When asked to guess how their life will be in five years’ time on a scale from zero to 10, young Indians averaged 6.7 in 2023. Between 2014 and 2019, this average was a full point lower.

4. Confidence in Infrastructure Builds

Infrastructure spending and renewal have been a core part of Modi’s economic agenda over the past decade. In each of the past three years, India has spent more than $100 billion on infrastructure.

Satisfaction with roads and highways and public transport has risen steadily against the backdrop of such investment. On both measures, satisfaction was roughly 10 percentage points higher in 2023 than in 2014, Modi’s first year in power.

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Indians’ satisfaction in 2023 stands out relative to other major economies in the G7 and core BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) groups. Satisfaction with roads and highways is on par with Germany (72% vs. 73%, respectively) and significantly higher than in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. When it comes to satisfaction with public transport systems, only France (83%) scores higher than India (76%) among members of the G7 and BRICS.

5. Faith in the Electoral Process Varies Across India

Most of the electorate will go to the polls with faith in the democratic process they are participating in. Seven in 10 adults have confidence in the honesty of elections in India, placing it in the top 20 countries globally on this measure.

But faith in the honesty of elections varies significantly across India. Those living in Hindi-majority states are far more confident than those in non-Hindi-majority states (80% vs. 61%, respectively). Broadly speaking, the regions that are most confident in electoral integrity are also the regions that have most confidence in the national government.

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Bottom Line

Many commentators expect Modi to be reelected for a third term. The election is taking place against the backdrop of long-term improvements in economic optimism, faith in the national government, and satisfaction with infrastructure, all of which are likely to favor the incumbent government.

The world’s most-populous nation is also the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The winner of the election will play a key role in shaping these demographic and economic forces, in turn having profound effects on India’s future, both at home and on the global stage.

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