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‘56% of Indians have confidence in Donald Trump’

Date: 22-02-2020
Subject: ‘56% of Indians have confidence in Donald Trump’
WASHINGTON: There may not be a big trade deal, he won’t be able to buy Taj Mahal, and perhaps only five lakhs, rather than five million, may turn up to greet him in Ahmedabad. But US President Donald Trump should have reasons to be thrilled with his India trip when he finds his approval rating in the country has climbed significantly from the time he came into office, in contrast to his dismal numbers across much of the world. 

A Pew Research poll released on Thursday ahead of Trump’s visit to India shows his image has gained favour since his candidacy in 2016, jumping from 14% confidence to 56% over three years. These numbers, according to the survey, resemble those of his predecessor: Before Barack Obama  left office, 58% of Indians had confidence in him in world affairs, while 9% had no confidence and 33% did not offer an opinion. 

Apparently, Indians held their counsel when Trump took office but his record in office has galvanized their opinion into positive territory, with those who volunteered a “don’t know” or “decline to respond” falling from 67 per cent in 2016 to just 30 per cent in mid-2019 when the polling was done. As more Indians become familiar with Trump, his popularity is on the rise, says the survey, attributing the positivity in part to the Indian right-wing, pejoratively referred to as “bhakts” in liberal circles and often compared to Trump's MAGA base. 

“Those who associate more with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are more likely than supporters of the Indian National Congress opposition party to voice confidence in Trump. (Those who are closer to the BJP are also more likely to offer an opinion),” the survey says without offering specific numbers for this assertion. 

However, when asked about their views of Trump’s policy on increasing tariffs or fees on imported goods from other countries, about half of Indians (48%) say they disapprove, according to the poll. A quarter approve, and roughly another quarter do not offer an opinion. Those who most identify with BJP are just as likely as Congress supporters to disapprove of this measure and less likely to provide an answer. 

The poll also reveals that Indians public opinion leans significantly towards the US vis-à-vis China. When asked whether having stronger economic ties with the US or China was more important, 62% of Indians pick the United States with Chinese influence on Indian economy seen as a negative. 

According to the survey, US-Indian relations are held in high regard among Indian adults, with about three-quarters saying current relations overall as well as economic ties are good between the two nations. But when it comes to China, the Indian public is more negative: 61% of Indians say China’s growing economy is a bad thing for their country. 

Also, unlike the positive marks India gives the US and its president, views of China and Chinese President Xi Jinping tilt more negative. While 21% of Indians have confidence in Xi, 36% say they lack confidence in him when it comes to world affairs. Likewise, only 23% have a favourable view of China while 46% have an unfavourable view of the country. Broadly, Indians are also much more likely to see the US as an ally and China as a threat. 

The big takeaway though is Trump’s growing popularity in India, which may be one reason for his arduous 24,000 kms round trip for an overnight stay in course of a 34-hour visit. 

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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