Saturday, December 15, 2007

India: A survey-based profile

In previous posts, I've drawn characterizations of a number of large countries (United States, China, and Mexico) based on World Values Surveys. Now, I would like to report what I found for India. In 1990, 2,500 Indians were sampled and asked more than 200 questions about their values and beliefs over a broad range of areas: work, family, religion, government, and nation. I list below those questions where Indian responses were in the top three or bottom three among all the countries surveyed (Ten to 50 countries were surveyed, depending on the question. Keep in mind that the sample was tilted toward more-developed countries). This strategy allows us to see in which ways a country is distinctive. There are many questions where Indians were in the middle, which indicates that the country is not much different than a typical country in the sample on many issues:

Top 3
work is very important in my life
I enjoy my work: it is the most important thing in my life
most important aspect of a job is the chance of promotion
there are people in the country who are poor because they are lazy

no previous marriages
spouse has same attitudes toward religion; social attitudes
faithfulness is very important for a successful marriage
same background is very important for a successful marriage
sharing household responsibities is very important for a successful marriage
a preschool child will suffer if mom works
children should be encourage to learn good manners; obedience
approves of abortion if mom is single
approves of women's movement

belongs to a religious denomination
brought up religiously at home
believes in reincarnation

has a lot of confidence in church; armed forces; civil service; political system
proud of country's scientific achievements
proud to be Indian

does not want criminals for neighbors
does not want left-wingers for neighbors
does not want drinkers for neighbors
does not want unstable people for neighbors
does not want foreigners for neighbors
does not want people with AIDS for neighbors
does not want drug addicts for neighbors
does not want homosexuals for neighbors
does not want Jews for neighbors

trust my family
trust my nationality
trust my ethnic group

cheating on taxes; married people cheating; homosexuality; prostitution; divorce; suicide are never justified

we have to accept environmental problems to combat unemployment

Bottom 3

during the past few weeks, I felt pleased about something I accomplished
success is due to luck and connections, not hard work
work should become less important in our lives
self-development should become more important

parents talked about sex
agrees with the idea of sexually freedom
marriage is outdated
approves of single motherhood
being a housewife is just as fulfilling as a paid job
there should be more emphasis on family life

it is proper for churches to speak out on abortion; disarmament; Third World problems; extramarital affairs; unemployment; racial discrimination; euthanasia; and ecology

believes in resurrection

if an unjust law were passed, I could do nothing about it

Summary: Based on the list, India can be characterized as: work-oriented; socially conservative but in favor of reforms for women; moralistic; religious; against politically active religion; not tolerant; trusting of those in power and other Indians; ethnically and nationally proud; and politically self-efficacious.


  1. Interesting how your results fit our stereotypes almost perfectly

  2. Indians strongly disagree with the assertion "success is due to luck and connections, not hard work."

    I suspect the Hindus in the survey are counting "hard work" done in past lives.

  3. Anonymous9:57 PM

    I do not believe it is really possible to do a representative poll of India.

    Is there really a way to poll untouchables living in shacks on the outskirts of rural villages?

    It sounds to me like this is a poll of India's uppper and middle classes, which is interesting, but not comparable to polls of nations that don't have dirt poor masses making up the vast majority of their population.

  4. Anonymous9:58 PM

    Could a country as poor as India really be so keen on the "the poor are lazy" statements?


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