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Indians view religious freedom more important than polls

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Washington: While more than eight in ten Indians consider religious freedom as very important, surprisingly fewer than half deem honest competitive elections as important in the world’s largest democracy, according to a new survey.

There is broad support around the world for many of the basic tenets of democracy, according to the Washington based think tank Pew Research Centre’s survey of 40,786 adults in 38 countries from April 5 to May 21, 2015.

Majorities in nearly all the countries polled say it is at least somewhat important to live in a country with free speech, a free press and freedom on the internet. And across the 38 countries, global medians of 50 percent or more consider these freedoms very important.

In all 38 nations surveyed, majorities say it is at least somewhat important to live in a country with religious freedom, a free press, free speech and competitive elections.

Freedom of religion emerge as an especially significant principle. Across the countries polled, a median of 74 percent say it is very important for people to be free to practice their religion.

Americans are also among the most supportive of religious freedom with 84 percent in the US saying it is very important.

“Overall, this right is highly valued in the Asia-Pacific region as well,” the survey noted, “with more than eight-in-ten Pakistanis, Indians and Indonesians describing religious freedom as very important, compared with just 24 percent in Japan, the lowest share among the countries surveyed.”

Elections are clearly considered a central component of democracy, and across the 38 nations in the study, a median of 61 percent think it is very important to have honest, competitive elections with the choice of at least two political parties.

“However, there are five nations where fewer than half deem this very important: India, Tanzania, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam,” the survey found.

In terms of broad support for fundamental democratic principles, 83 percent Indians consider it very important that people can practice their religion freely as against a global median of 74 per cent.

Nearly three in four Indians (71 percent) believe women have the same rights as men as against a global median of 65 percent.

Half (49 percent) think honest elections are held regularly with choice of at least two parties compared to a global median of 61 percent.

About 44 percent Indians believe people can say what they want without censorship as against a global median of 56 percent, while 41 percent think media can report news without censorship compared with a global median of 55 percent.

About 38 percent Indians believe people can use the internet without censorship as against a global median of 50 percent.

Overall, global attitudes toward freedom of speech and freedom of the press are quite similar.

A 38-nation median of 56 percent believe it is very important to live in a country where people can say what they want without government censorship.

And 55 percent think it is very important that the media can report the news without being censored.

Opposition to internet censorship is also common around the world. A global median of 50 percent say an uncensored internet is very important.
IANS