Sep 19, 9:07 AM EDT

New survey says India's Modi continues to be widely popular



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NEW DELHI (AP) -- Two years after sweeping to power, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to inspire confidence in a majority of Indians, who are pleased about the state of their economy and see the country playing a growing role in the international arena, according to a survey released Monday.

However, the high rate of satisfaction with Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has not entirely dimmed the popularity of the main opposition Congress party, the Pew Research Center said.

While more than 80 percent of Indians are confident in Modi and his party, about 65 percent view the Congress party and its leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul favorably, the survey found.

The poll conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,464 Indians between April 7 and May 24 and has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

In 2014, Modi and his party won the most decisive electoral victory that India has seen in over 25 years. But despite the victory that gave his party a clear majority in India's powerful lower house of Parliament, he has struggled to push through economic reforms and legislation at the pace he had promised because his party doesn't have the same numbers in the upper house.

He has also been slammed by critics for being silent as some Hindu political groups with ties to his BJP have attacked minority Muslims and Dalits, Hinduism's lowest caste, over allegations that they ate beef or killed cows. Devout Hindus consider cows sacred and worship them as a maternal figure.

Yet neither criticism seems to have dented Modi's popularity.

The support for Modi and the BJP comes from both men and women across ages, educational background and income levels, and from people in both urban and rural India, the Pew Research Center said.

More than two-thirds of Indians feel that the South Asian country now plays a more important role in the world than it did a decade ago, and more than half see being part of the world economy as a positive thing because it provides them with new markets and space for growth, it said.

But Indians also remain wary of longtime rivals and neighbors China and Pakistan. About seven in 10 said they feel that China's economic and military clout could cause serious problems for India. Nearly half worry about the relationship between Beijing and Islamabad.

Indians support a tough attitude when it comes to dealing with the world. Sixty-two percent favor a military solution in dealing with terrorism, and about the same number also favor increased defense spending, the survey found.

However, despite the role Indians believe their country is destined to play internationally, they still believe the country should fix its own problems before helping the world. Only 23 percent want India to help other countries, it said.

The domestic issues that worry a vast majority of Indians most are crime, lack of jobs, corruption, terrorism and air pollution.

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