India has come a long way from 2014 when it handed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) an imperative mandate to rule the nation of over 1,342,512,706 billion people. As per a recent report published by Forbes, 73% of Indians have “trust” in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Using the observations made by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Forbes puts India among the top three nations that trust their governments, the other two being Switzerland and Indonesia.
The assessment made by Forbes makes for glitzy headlines but one must look at the other side of the story before commissioning it as gospel commandment.
Certainly, there has been a lot of conversation happening in terms of governance and its functioning when compared to the last UPA regime that barely spoke. Therefore, a close scrutiny is must to understand what made the citizens of India vote for ‘trust’ and not otherwise.
To begin with, if you are wondering about never having voted, don’t feel left out — most of us did not.
What is Government at a glance report?
Government at a Glance 2017 provides the latest available data on public administrations in OECD countries. The organization carries out various researches on subjects ranging from indicators on public sector employment, institutions, budgeting practices and procedures, regulatory governance, risk management and communication, open government data and public sector innovation before coming out with such figures. Well no alarms there, not so far.
The data analysed is updated twice a year as new data are released, says OECD.
Collection of Data to determine “Trust in the government”
Trust is defined as a belief in the goodness of others, belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
Thus OECD deduces that measures of trust in government frequently rely on evidence from perception surveys.
OCED derives the data for this survey from the Gallup World Poll (GWP) that uses Gallup Macroeconomic Path, a model succinct for successful societies.
And this is where the problem begins, firstly the definition of ‘successful societies’ is very vague and nations like India — diversity is just an understatement, we are a huge country and highly opinionated.
Secondly, the method used to define the sample size used by GWP is based on proportional stratified probability sampling method.
Researchers have been using the stratified random sampling method to obtain a result that at best represents the total population studied.
The stratified method makes sense as it cracks the entire population into common strata to minimize the chance of collecting sample selection that is biased. At best it ensures that every stratum of the population studied gets equal representation.
Now compare this with India having 1841 registered and 1785 unrecognised political parties’ distributed among more than 1,342,512,706 billion population.
So comes the flaw as Stratified sampling method cannot ‘confidently classify’ every member of the population into strata that can be used to collect the data.
Lastly, comes the questionnaire that was used to obtain the results making India the third best nation with no ‘trust issues’ with the government.
One could infer that when the sample size to be studied is a country, it is nearly impossible to come up with a questionnaire that yields the closest outcome.
Having said that, we are proved wrong as GWP comes with a solution that helped them achieve the data with certain ease, to be used by OECD and later by Forbes to make an ‘impressive’ headline.
GWP has only one question to ask the respondents — whether or not people have confidence in their national government? — Simple answer, Yes or a No.
There are some smaller issues such as the data cannot tell if which part or mechanism of the government are they happy about or not.
It further does not even apprehend the causal effect that makes the citizens trust or distrust their government.
Therefore, there is no denying the fact that a lot of remarkable displacement has been happening ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over the reins from Manmohan Singh in the year 2014, but certainly, the report published by Forbes is not to refer to say for certain if the discourse is positive or negative.
Also, note that while OCED released the data showing the change in confidence in national government, this is what they wrote: “On average, only 42% of citizens have confidence in their government (down from 45% in 2007)”
— OECD Governance (@OECDgov) July 13, 2017
Now as we hail the headlines saying, Switzerland tops the chart with 80 % of confidence while Indonesia is at the second spot with 79 % in the global index of countries; India is definitely at number three with “42% of citizens have confidence in their government (down from 45% in 2007).”