Most opinion polls have found Modi to be extraordinarily popular well into his first term as prime minister.
The respected Pew Global Attitudes Survey in early 2017 – around the mid-way mark of Modi’s five-year tenure – found that he was remarkably popular.Nearly 90% of respondents held a “favourable” view of Modi.
According to Ronojoy Sen, who interpreted these reports in The Times of India,this number had not only been fairly steady since Modi was elected in 2014, but also cut across regions.
Modi was equally popular, if not more, in south India as he was in the north. The closest competitor to Modi was Congress president Rahul Gandhi, of whom nearly 60% of respondents held a “favourable” view.
Things have, however, changed over the past year or so. While Pew has not published any surveys on Modi recently, surveys conducted by Indian agencies give a different picture.
CSDS-Lokniti surveys from May 2014 onwards show that the voter’s choice of Modi as prime minister was at its highest at 44% in mid-2017, around the time the Pew survey was conducted.
Since then the support for Modi has dropped significantly to 34% in mid-2018. Correspondingly, the preference for Rahul has risen from an abysmal 9% in 2017 to 24% in mid-2018.
Surveys conducted by a news magazine show a similar trend though the numbers are different. These surveys show Modi’s popularity at a peak in early 2017 with 65% of respondents preferring him as prime minister.
However, by end-2018, 49% preferred Modi as prime minister. The numbers for Rahul have in that same period risen from 10% to 22%. Thus, both surveys show that Modi’s popularity has fallen since its peak in 2017 and Rahul’s acceptability has grown, though the gap between the two remains significant.