Pretty interesting findings coming out of a survey of public opinion (Insights South Asia- Nepal Survey- 2011) conducted between 16 July and 7 August 2011 by Gallup and South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF). A total of 1,000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 and older were interviewed face-to-face.
Here are the major findings:
Education is the most vital issue
- A majority (58%) of Nepalese chose education as one of the most important issues (out of the eight issues listed).
- Family was selected as one of the most important issues by 44% of respondents, while health and work were mentioned by, respectively, 37% and 31% of respondents. All other topics were selected as being the most important by considerably smaller shares: 11% for religion and spirituality, 10% for living conditions, 5% for the environment and 3% for law and order.
- The likelihood to select education also increased with respondents’ level of education.
- The older the respondents were, the more likely they were to value family and religion/spirituality.
India is the most popular destination
- A third (33%) of Nepalese surveyed had friends or relatives living in another South Asian country (i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka or Afghanistan).
- Almost all of these respondents with friends or relatives in another country answered that these friends or relatives lived in India (95%).
- Nearly half (48%) of Nepalese surveyed had at least once visited another South Asian country; virtually all of these respondents said they had visited India (97%).
- More than 8 in 10 (84%) respondents said they had a rather positive opinion about their big neighbor (India).
- About 4 in 10 respondents held a positive view about Bangladesh (44%), Sri Lanka (43%), Bhutan (40%) and the Maldives (39%). Pakistan and Afghanistan had the least positive ratings among South Asian countries, 33% and 26%, respectively.
- Almost three-quarters held a favorable attitude towards China and the US (74% and 73%, respectively). Japan was the third most popular country among the foreign powers listed in the survey (65% viewed it positively). The results for the three European countries - Germany, France or the UK - showed that 44%-46% had a positive opinion about them.
Positive about SAARC
- Following a short description of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a majority of 57% confirmed having heard about the association.
- Strikingly, almost all (98%) respondents who were aware of SAARC thought that Nepal's membership of the association was a good thing.
- In the eyes of Nepalese, the two biggest obstacles to establishing a more intensive regional cooperation among the countries in South Asia were the arms race between India and Pakistan (60% saw this as an obstacle) and historic animosities (58%).
- Respondents appeared to accept all benefits of regional cooperation (as listed in the survey) as being important: the proportion of "important" responses ranged from 75% for "better transport connections to neighboring countries" and "more respect for ethnic and cultural diversity when visiting neighboring countries" to 86% for "more job opportunities in this country" by at least three-quarters of respondents to 82% "cheaper imports" and 86% for "more job opportunities in this country".
Terrorism as the greatest threat
- Terrorism was seen as the greatest threat to security in the South Asian region - 4 in 10 (40%) respondents ranked it number one from a list of six potential threats.
- Crime was the second most frequently mentioned security threat (20%).
- When asked which South Asian country posed the greatest danger to security in the region, Pakistan ranked number one (selected by 28%).
- The largest proportion of respondents (41%) rated economic conditions in their country as poor, and a further 30% as only fair.
- Just a handful of respondents said that economic conditions were excellent (3%) and roughly a fifth (19%) considered them as good.
- A lack of political leadership and corruption were by far the most frequently mentioned factors preventing economic growth in Nepal.
- Almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents who were dissatisfied with the current economic conditions in Nepal said that a lack of political leadership was one of the two most important factors that prevented economic conditions to become better. Similarly, slightly less than 6 in 10 (58%) of these respondents held corruption responsible for the current bad economic situation.
- About one in five (21%) respondents thought that Nepal’s large population was one of the main factors negatively affecting economic conditions, followed by about one in seven (15%) respondents who mentioned crime and a lack of security and the same proportion who selected bad economic policies.
- About a tenth (11%) of respondents identified Nepal’s poorly qualified population as one of two major problems; a lack of infrastructure and environmental problems were each selected by approximately 1 in 20 respondents (6% and 4%, respectively). Virtually nobody regarded trade restrictions as a major brake on economic progress.
- A slim majority (54%) of Nepalese thought that their government was not doing enough to fight corruption, while 30% were satisfied with their government's efforts in this regard. A share of 16% did not answer this question.
- Nepalese were more optimistic when answering the question about future economic developments; 45% of respondents felt that the economy in their country was getting better, compared to 35% who said it was getting worse. India was perceived as having the biggest impact on the Nepalese economy.
Respondents living in rural areas and villages not only more frequently rated economic conditions in their country as positive, they were also more likely to view the current development of Nepal’s economy positively. Large city dwellers gave a very negative estimate of Nepal’s current economic development: 48% said that economic conditions were deteriorating (vs. 33%-40% of respondents from villages, rural and suburban areas).
- About three-quarters (77%) of Nepalese had seen an improvement in their standard of living in the past five years.
- About 1 in 10 (9%) reported that their family's standard of living had deteriorated and 14% felt it had stayed the same in the time frame. Furthermore, about 8 in 10 (79%) Nepalese said that their family's standard of living was getting better at the time of the survey, compared to 11% who said that it was getting worse.
- More than two-thirds (69%) of Nepalese wanted to continue living in their country, while 31% would like to move temporarily or permanently to another country.
- The United States was the most preferred destination (11% of all respondents), followed by India (6% of all respondents).
Looking at the socio-demographics of potential migrants, the survey found that the typical would-be migrant was male, young, lives in a large city and has enjoyed at least basic education. In Nepal, 38% of men (vs. 24% of women), 39% of large city dwellers (vs. 28%-31% or respondents from rural areas, villages or suburbs), 35% of the 15-24 year-olds (vs. 30% of 25-39 year-olds, 26% of 40-54 year-olds and 18% of those older than 54) and 40% of respondents with a university education (vs. 13%-21% of those without formal education and 33%-36% of those with primary or secondary/ higher secondary education) said they would like to move temporarily or permanently to another country.
- If Nepalese would be given a choice between a secular democracy or a Hindu democracy, the majority (63%) would prefer the latter, while a third (34%) would favor the former.
- A vast majority (81%) of Nepalese disagreed that the use of violence was an accepted means of re-solving conflicts in their country nowadays, compared to 10% of respondents who held an opposite view - i.e. that the use of violence was still accepted - and 9% who did not answer.