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Nepali Public Opinion 2011: Gallup/SADF South Asian Survey

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For the majority of Nepalis, India is the most popular of South Asian countries, a survey reveals.

More than 84% Nepalis have a positive opinion of India, followed by Bangladesh (44%), Sri Lanka (43%), Bhutan (40%), the Maldives (39%), Pakistan (33%) and Afghanistan (26%,).

This is according to a Gallup survey of public opinion (Insights South Asia- Nepal Survey- 2011) conducted in mid-July and early August for the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) and released in Brussels on 21 September 2011.

The report, first among South Asian countries, presents the latest results from Nepal, the first country surveyed in South Asia. The fieldwork was carried out in Nepal between 16 July and 7 August 2011. 1,000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 and older were interviewed. The interviews were conducted face-to-face.

The survey results offer insights into Nepali public opinion regarding many crucial topics, including vital issues, South Asian connections, opinion about other countries, perceptions regarding SAARC, economy, living standards, migration, conflict, corruption, etc.

Main findings

Vital issues for the Nepalese
When asked to choose two items (from a list of eight) that were the most important in their personal lives, a majority (58%) of Nepalese chose education. 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.

Connections with other South Asian countries
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 re-spondents 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%).

Opinions about other countries
India was clearly the most popular country among the South Asian countries. More than 8 in 10 (84%) respondents said they had a rather positive opinion about their big neighbour. 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. When asked to voice their opinion about countries from other parts of the world, almost three-quarters held a favourable 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. Large shares of respondents did not know enough about the various countries listed in the survey to formulate an opinion.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
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.

Perceived obstacles to establishing closer regional ties
In the eyes of Nepalese, the two biggest obstacles to establishing a more intensive regional coopera-tion among the countries in South Asia were the arms race between India and Pakistan (60% saw this as an obstacle) and historic animosities (58%).

Importance of potential benefits of closer regional cooperation
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 neighbouring countries" and "more respect for ethnic and cultural diversity when visiting neigh-bouring 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".

Threats to the security of the South Asian region
Terrorism was seen as the greatest threat to security in the South Asian region - 4 in 10 (40%) re-spondents ranked it number one from a list of six potential threats. Crime was the second most fre-quently 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.

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.

Living standards
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).

Preferred role of religion in the political system
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 favour the former.

Acceptance of violence as a means to resolving conflicts
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.

Fight against corruption
A slim majority (54%) of Nepalese thought that their government was not doing enough to fight cor-ruption, while 30% were satisfied with their government's efforts in this regard. A share of
16% did not answer this question.

See full report here (in PDF).

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