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Coronavirus and Public Opinion: Changes in 6 months of lockdown

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India continues to deal with the financial, economic and social impact of Covid-19 even as the economy is opening up households and individuals are still struggling with the impact of the pandemic on their jobs, mental health, loss of loved ones and living under constant fear of the dreaded virus. The Janta Curfew and subsequent lockdown were announced on 22 March when there were 361 positive coronavirus cases in the country. On 7 September, almost six months later, India is the second most affected country in the world with 4.2 million positive cases.

In an attempt to capture the country’s sentiment on the coronavirus crisis, Team C-Voter has been conducting a daily tracking poll from 16 March 2020 among 18+ adults statewide, including every major demographic. The poll asks questions to respondents across the country about their opinion on the fear of the virus, government’s handling of the crisis and availability of food and ration in the households.

We will attempt to see how public perception about the virus and its impact has changed over the past 6 months.

How has the fear of Coronavirus changed among Indians in the past six months?

The Team C-Voter Covid-19 tracker asks respondents about whether they fear they or someone else in their family might catch the Coronavirus. Before the announcement of the lockdown on 22 March 2020, only around 35% of Indians feared that they or someone else in their family might catch the coronavirus. However, after the announcement of the lockdown, this percentage began to rise.

Throughout the lockdown period in April and May (till 18 May), the percentage of respondents who thought they or someone in their family could catch the Coronavirus remained steady at around 40-45%.

Since the announcement of Lockdown 4.0 on 18 May with relaxations and the subsequent unlock phase 1 announced from 1 June, we observe the percentage of respondents who think they or someone in their family could catch the Coronavirus has been increasing.

Throughout the various phases of Unlock 1.0 and Unlock 2.0, the percentage of respondents who thought they or someone in their family could catch the Coronavirus continued increasing, stabilizing at around 60%.

 Subsequently, since the announcement of Unlock 3.0 and Unlock 4.0 in August and September, the percentage has declined slightly.

The percentage of Indians who believed they or someone in their family could catch the coronavirus was highest in the month of July. The country recorded more coronavirus cases in the month of July more than in all previous months put together.

How does Team C-Voter track daily public sentiments during the lockdown?

In order to carry out the survey, Team CVoter uses Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) technology. This is an interactive front-end computer system that aids interviewers to ask questions over the telephone. Due to the Coronavirus lockdown implemented in the country, Team C-Voter decentralized the entire CATI process to enable all researchers to carry out interviews from their homes.

The survey is run in 11 national languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Bangla and Asamiya. This enables the survey to cater to the local language requirements of the survey in urban as well as rural parts of the country. The Team C-Voter Corona Tracker is the only CATI survey that is being conducted routinely in all of South/South East Asia even during the COVID crisis.

How is random sampling carried out?

India has a very high rate of teledensity, with the world’s second-largest mobile phone user base of over 1.16 billion users as of May 2019. India’s national numbering format is 10-digit for both landline phone as well as cellular phone services.

In order to ensure no particular section of the universe is left out:

 • Firstly, a list of existing telecom circles of the area is made.

• After this, the first five prescribed digits of all the specified circles are used and then they are extended by five digits randomly.

 • This creates a list of a large number of possible telephone numbers in an area, which are then randomly selected and dialled.

• Finally, researchers sitting on the system start the process as soon as a call is connected.

More Indians think the threat from Coronavirus is being exaggerated as lockdown relaxations are being introduced.

Until the announcement of the first lockdown, more than half Indians believed that the threat from the virus was being exaggerated.

Throughout the month of May (till before Lockdown 4.0) the percentage of Indians who thought the threat of the Coronavirus was being exaggerated was stable at around 30%. However, since the announcements of the various phases of unlocking since June, the percentage of Indians who think the threat is being exaggerated has been increasing.

It should be noted that in the month of September, while the country has recorded the second-highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world, around 55% of respondents said they think the threat from the virus was being exaggerated. These figures are even higher than those reported pre-lockdown |in March.

How has public opinion about the government’s handling/mishandling of the Coronavirus crisis |changed over the past six months?

Overall, Indians have had a very positive response to the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis. In the days leading up to the Janta Curfew on March 22nd, around 75% of Indians believed that the government was handling the Coronavirus crisis well. After the announcement of the first nation-wide lockdown on 24 March, this figure began to increase gradually. However, it wasn’t until the first few days of April that over 93% of the respondents said that they thought the government was doing a good job in handling the crisis. This high approval rating continued until the end of May.

 Since the announcement of the opening-up of the economy and the subsequent announcement of the unlock phases in June, the percentage of those who agree with the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis reduced slightly and stabilized at around 80% in the months of July-September.

Statistically Speaking

Data watching: Covid-19 in India

Shiv Sehgal

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We consume data on a daily basis from multiple sources and in various formats. Often due to this excessive number crunching and overload of information, the most important messages from data are lost. Polstrat’s objectives include creating methodologies and processes that will help channel a solution-oriented approach and better decision-making.

Through “Statistically Speaking”, we hope to use political, social and economic data and analyses to judge the mood of the Indian public. This week’s column attempts to trace the changes in public opinion about the virus since 16 March 2020, a week before the nation went into complete lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. Through the Team C-Voter daily tracking Covid-19 poll, which is the only survey being conducted routinely even in the lockdown throughout South Asia, we see how public perception about the fear of the virus and the government’s handling of the pandemic has changed in the past six months. India now has the second highest number of positive Coronavirus cases in the world, although the government has opened up the economy and lifted lockdowns.

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Trade, Defence, Partnerships & People

Shiv Sehgal

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In the 20th century, it was often argued that there were three main limitations to the development of bilateral ties between India and the United States of America (US). These were India’s focus on nonalignment, its closed economy, and growing nuclear program. From the US’s end, there was a lack of a need to foster a relationship with India. The US-India partnership began growing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

With the world moving from bipolar to unipolar, after the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union, India needed to start focusing more on the West, especially considering the 1991 LPG Reforms. Much of this period was spent repairing and resolving the differences between the two countries — especially in context to India possessing nuclear weaponry, the United State’s relationship with India’s neighbour, Pakistan, and more common issues like China and Terrorism.

 Despite US interests growing in India, post the ‘91 reforms, India’s nuclear program was still a major issue of contention. In 1998, when India conducted nuclear trials under the Vajpayee administration, the Bill Clinton administration imposed sanctions on India. These were later reversed by the Bush administration between 2001-2009, the Bush administration went ahead to create a nuclear cooperation agreement with India — the 123 agreement signed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — lobbying the US Congress, International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to allow trade in India.

 The benefits of this new phase in the relationship were seen across the board, with Indian exports to the US increasing by 260% and US exports to India increasing by 470%, between 2001 and 2008 (Figure 1). India also began to allow greater Foreign Direct Investment during this period.

 With the US grappling with a post 9/11 world, terrorism also became a common issue between both nations, with the United States passing the PATRIOT Act, and India passing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, within a short period of one another in 2001. India also assured full support for the United States post the attack, including offering military security.

In November of the same year, cooperation initiatives were announced between both states primarily on counter-terrorism and cyber terrorism. Dialogues were established for the transfer of technology for dual-use (for both civilian and military purposes). Both nations’ focus on security was evident in the number of Defense and Arms deals that took place, with India purchasing radar systems, aircraft self-protection systems, Sea-King helicopters, an amphibious transport dock (that has since been used in India for several rescue missions, besides its more conventional uses), and the Hercules military transport aircraft, among others. If anything, this was a sign of the United States’ growing trust and respect for India, with India’s geopolitical position, being neighbours with Pakistan, Afghanistan and China, giving it importance.

At the same time, the Atal Behari Vajpayee government held its ground on several issues. This included refusing to pledge Indian troops and weapons to fight alongside the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the United Progressive Alliance replacing the National Democratic Alliance there were concerns regarding the impact on the IndoUS relationship. However, it can be argued that the most significant period of overhaul took place during the UPA-Manmohan Singh era, both in terms of the relationship with the US and India’s position in the world.

U.S. Trade in India: Balance of Trade

In 2005, President Bush and Prime Minister Singh announced the ‘India-US Joint Statement’, that improved and reformed India-US relations on economic, energy, environmental, developmental, non-proliferation, security, technology and space fronts. This Joint Statement led to the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement -the 123 Agreement. The agreement made India the only country with a known nuclear program to conduct nuclear trade and commerce with other countries for civilian purposes.

With President Bush recognising India as a ‘responsible nuclear state’, the effort the United States made to ensure acceptance of the Agreement by various parties showed their focus on retaining India as an ally, especially to keep India and Iran distant. In this period, the United States continued the Clinton administration’s policy to engage with India and Pakistan independently.

But, the 26/11 terror attack in India and several other terrorist attacks that were caused by Pakistani nationals, led to India demanding that the United States act on and denounce Pakistani actions. Apart from the Nuclear Program, there was also the Energy Security Dialogue in 2005, the New Framework for the US-India defence Relationship, and the sale of Heavy Transport aircrafts, heavylift helicopters and anti-tank combat helicopters. India has been an important market for the United States when it comes to the sale of arms and military equipment.

Major developments in US-India defence trade

In 2009, the Obama administration came into power in the United States. With Obama clearing the export of more military equipment, the United States became one of India’s top three military suppliers. In the same year, India and the US also launched the US-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) on November 24, 2009, enhancing cooperation on Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy and Climate Change. Within the Obama administration, there was consensus about the importance of India.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, Mike Mullen, stated that “India has emerged as an increasingly important strategic partner” and the US Undersecretary of State Joseph Burns stated “Never has there been a moment where India and America mattered more to each other”.

In the year 2010, four working groups were organised in the areas of Non-Communicable Diseases, Infectious Diseases, Strengthening Health Systems and Services, and Maternal and Child Care.

President Obama also visited India and addressed a joint session of the Indian Parliament, during which he backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Total US arms FMS clearances

However,the leaking of CIA documents by Edward Snowden that revealed that US intelligence agencies had been authorized to spy on the then Gujarat Chief Minister and current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, showed that there were ups and downs in the India-US relationship. This was not the only incident. In 2013, India demanded that the United States respond to revelations that the Indian Embassy in Washington had been targeted for spying. Similarly, in 2014, U.S. diplomats were summoned by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to address the allegations that the US National Security Agency was spying on Indian individuals and political entities.

However, these controversies mark small ripples in otherwise smooth sailings for India and the United States. The two nations continued to collaborate and deepen their partnership in the education, energy, and defence sectors. The first commercial deal was signed during Prime Minister Singh’s visit to the US to meet President Obama in September 2013. By 2017, the US exported USD25.7 billion worth of goods to India and imported USD48.6 billion worth of Indian goods which included IT services, precious stones, and textiles, among others. Apart from this, the -IndiaUS foreign direct investment (FDI) is small, but it grew during the Obama Era. This was in part due to the FDI reforms that allowed India to improve its business environment, which included raising foreign equity caps for insurance and defence. The US had concerns about existing investment barriers, only heightened by new limitations on how platforms like Amazon could conduct business. For the US, adding to the FDI barriers issues, was India’s weak regulatory transparency along with India’s localization policies. While two-way US-India FDI led to both increased employment in the US and exports in various sectors, US FDI still raised concerns of offshoring.

US-India- Foreign Direct Investment

As India welcomed a new government, with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, the tide turned. In 2015, Prime Minister Modi said US investment in India had doubled and promised to reduce bureaucratic red tape and improve the ease of doing business in the country.

When US President Barack Obama visited for India’s Republic Day in 2015, he pledged USD4 billion in investments and loans to further establish the strategic partnership between the two countries. USD1 billion was pledged to finance exports of ‘Made in America’ products to India. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation lent USD1 billion to small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the additional USD2 billion towards realising the potential of renewable energy.

President Obama and PM Modi have previously deliberated on issues of energy and climate change. After a meeting between Modi and Obama on the sidelines of the UN general assembly meeting in 2015, India announced its own goal for investments in the sector of carbon emission reduction. Modi was one of Obama’s leading partners at the Paris Agreement meet in December 2015.

In January 2017, Peter Lavoy, the Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council declared that the partnership between India and the United States under Barack Obama’s administration had been “incredibly successful”.

“I can tell you quite definitively that due to our partnerships, several terrorism plots were foiled. Indian lives and American lives were saved because of this partnership”, he added.

Under Modi’s governance, foreign policy acquired the traits of greater risk-taking and willingness to ‘agree to disagree’ with partners, which went on to serve the IndiaUS relationship well as President Donald Trump was elected in 2017. PM Modi first visited the US in 2017 to meet with Trump, and then again in 2019 when they reaffirmed Indian-American ties, with an emphasis on increased military cooperation with the initiation of the Tiger Triumph exercises. President Trump’s consequent visit to India in 2020 was an important reaffirmation of the India-US strategic partnership.

 Increased closed ties between India and the US can be attributed to trade and foreign investment, convergence on issues of global security, the US’ backing of India in the United Nations Security Council.

Better representation on investment and trade platforms such as the World Bank, India’s inclusion in multilateral export control groups, and the use of technology-sharing arrangements to invest in joint manufacturing were also beneficial areas where the US and India showed each other support.

With India’s concerns over China’s growing presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean increasing, and the US seeking to counter China’s growing global influence, India and the US have reached a level of strategic convergence on the need to counter China’s role in the Indo-Pacific region. A groundbreaking decision made under the Trump administration was to make India a major defence partner. This was also followed by the decision to sell to India topgrade military advanced predator drones.

While China issues have been a point of convergence for the two nations, India’s historic decision to procure four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defence systems from Russia proved to be contentious as it ignores Trump’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA. Thus, the United States threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.

 Despite attempts at diplomatic workarounds, India could be subject to US sanctions for this decision.

Despite differences in the trade relationship, progress has been made towards the completion of ‘phase one’ of an India-US trade agreement. The US is India’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in goods and services totalling USD142 billion in 2018.

On 3 August, 2018, India was granted the status of Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) by the US. This was an historic move, which allowed the export of high-end technology products from the US to India for both civil and defense purposes.

The supply of US nuclear reactors to India has been a topic of debate between the two countries for over a decade. One main roadblock has been India’s noncompliance of liability laws with international standards, which require that accident costs be borne by the operator, and not the maker of a nuclear power station.

In March 2019, after years of contention around the issue, the two countries signed an agreement to strengthen security and civil nuclear cooperation, which included building six US nuclear power plants in India.

2019 and 2020 have been important years for both nations. With elections taking place, the risk of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the subsequent economic slowdown, there has been no better time for relations between the two nations to foster and improve.

The United States sees a unique partner in India for the South Asia region.

 For India, as it witnesses border skirmishes in the area it shares with both China and Pakistan, having the support of the United States is important as the world and the global economy enter the most challenging part of the 21st century yet.

Shiv Sehgal is the Director of Polstrat, a political consultancy

Inputs by Shreya Maskara, Sitara Srinivas, Devashree Somani

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Statistically Speaking

Following the trajectory: Indo-American relations

Shiv Sehgal

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We consume data on a daily basis from multiple sources and in various formats. Often due to this excessive number crunching and overload of information, the most important messages from data are lost. Polstrat’s objectives include creating methodologies and processes that will help channel a solution-oriented approach and better decision-making. Through “Statistically Speaking” we hope to use political, social and economic data and analyses to judge the mood of the Indian Public. As the United States Presidential elections draw closer, both the Democratic and Republican nominees are going all out to woo the 2.4 million Indian origin American voters spread across the country. The number of Indian American voters residing in the United States has grown substantially over the past few years and today of the roughly 4 million IndianAmericans around 2.4 million are eligible voters and of those 1.4 million live in nine battleground states. Over the past 2 decades changes in the United States leadership has had a direct impact on Indian Americans living in the United States as well as on Indo-US relations. In today’s column, we explore the impact of various Democratic and Republican Presidents of the United States and the impact this had on trade, economic, foreign policy, defence ties between India and the United States.

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Statistically Speaking

Decoding mental health and domestic violence in Covid times

Along with physical dangers, the pandemic has impacted the mental health of billions of people globally. So, how are they dealing with this unprecedented crisis? Here is what the big numbers say.

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As the world continues to deal with the financial, economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, households are struggling with the mental and emotional impact of job losses, income cuts, loss of loved ones, loneliness, and uncertainty about their future. Undoubtedly, along with its physical dangers, the pandemic has impacted the mental health of billions of people globally, many of whom are still under lockdown.

Team CVoter conducted a series of surveys in June 2020 to capture the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown on the mental health of Indians across the country. We break these numbers down to show you the changes in overall mental health of Indians across the country. These include the main reasons for increased stress and anxiety amongst people in the last three months; loneliness, uncertainty, loss of income, and fear of domestic violence are some of these reasons. The surveys also look at the steps people are taking to cope with their changed circumstances.

How important is mental health?

First, in order to understand the importance placed on mental health in India, respondents were asked whether they think mental health is more, equally or less important than physical health. Almost 50% of respondents said they think both are equally important, while another 30.9% said they think mental health is more important than physical health.

How has the pandemic affected mental health?

Overall, around 20.6% of Indians reported that their mental health has worsened during Covid-19. At the same time, around 34.7% of respondents also reported having no change in their mental health now as compared to before the pandemic. These figures are consistent globally, as research conducted by the firm SSRS showcased that a third of people in the United States said they experienced stress, anxiety or sadness that was difficult to cope with alone since the outbreak of Covid-19. Similarly, around 25% of respondents in Canada, the UK and France also said they had suffered mental health problems as a result of the pandemic.

 The levels of decline in mental health also varied by age, income and gender. Around 25.1% of females reported a decline in their mental health while only 16.4% of males reported the same. Those in the youngest age group (below 25) reported the highest decline (23.4%) while those in the oldest age group (60 and above) reported the lowest decline (8.3%). 22.5% of respondents in the lower-income group reported a decline, followed by 20% in the higher income group. Those in the middle-income group reported the lowest decline in their mental health (18.1%).

Has Covid-19 led to rise in domestic violence?

As countries across the world began to go into lockdown to help protect people from infection, a “shadow pandemic”, as stated by the United Nations, began to unfold in homes globally as women who had been victims of domestic abuse were trapped at home with their abusers. Reports of domestic violence abuse have increased in India and globally as households struggle with the additional strains of the pandemic. These include security, health and income struggles, in addition to being in the confines of a crowded home with limited or no access to services and reduced peer and family support.

According to the United Nations, reports of domestic violence abuse, which are majorly under-reported globally, have increased by around 25%. In India, data from the National Commission of Women (NCW) in mid-April suggested an almost 100% increase in domestic violence during Lockdown 1.0. Additionally, in just eleven days during the start of India’s lockdown, the Childline India helpline received more than 92,000 calls (20–31 March) asking for protection from abuse and violence.

Similarly, in France, reports of domestic violence rose by 30% after the lockdown started, while in China reports nearly doubled during the lockdown, with 90% relating to the pandemic. In May 2020, a study conducted by the UNFPA highlighted that if the lockdown continued for another six months, cases of domestic violence could rise to 31 million globally.

 Even before the Covid-19 lockdown, as per figures by the United Nations, less than 40% of women who experienced violence sought help of any sort. Add to that the restrictions of being inside your own home, trapped with your abuser, with no network of support from friends and family, and reduced access to helplines and other services, women globally are the most vulnerable during this pandemic. Even as lockdowns are being relaxed in countries globally, it is important to remember that often personal crises such as those caused by the pandemic, including job loss and major financial setbacks can often aggravate abusers further. 

What are the primary causes of stress and anxiety?

The most commonly cited cause of stress or concern for Indians over the last three months was finances and job security followed by uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Other major causes of stress included uncertainty about school or college exams (58.2%), fear of contracting the virus (50.9%) and the stress of following the guidelines (49.3%). 

The main causes of concern varied significantly by age groups. For all age-groups, except for those over 60, finances and job security were the most commonly cited reasons for concern. The older age group (60 above) cited uncertainty and fear of the unknown as their most common cause of concern for the last three months (48%). 

 For females, the most commonly cited cause of concern/stress was finances/job security (70.1%), followed by uncertainty/fear of the unknown (59.9%) and uncertainty about school/college (53.3%). On the other hand, for males, the most commonly cited cause of concern/ stress was uncertainty/fear of the unknown (66.5%), finances/job security (63.7%) followed by uncertainty about school/college (62.8%). In addition to this, 30.9% of females and 30.7% of males cited family discord or domestic violence as one of the main causes of stress during the lockdown.

What steps are we taking to improve mental health?

Overall, the most common method cited by respondents to improve their mental health is talking about it with family (53.9%), followed by keeping themselves busy with hobbies (44.1%), while the least common is seeking medical help (5.7%). When comparing these figures across demographics we observe that those in older age groups are much less likely to take steps towards improving their mental health. The percentage of people in older age groups (60 and above) undertaking methods regularly to improve their mental health over the last three months is much lower than those in other age groups. 

Additionally, we observe that for both males and females, the least commonly cited method to improve their mental health is seeking medical help.  As per data by the World Health Organization, there is a wide “treatment gap” for all mental health disorders in India, whereby only 10% of patients in the country get treated. 

 This could be due to the shortage of mental health professionals in the country (three psychiatrists for every one million people), the mere 0.06% of the healthcare budget dedicated to mental healthcare, lack of awareness and taboo around mental health, or the fact that for roughly 40% of Indians who have medical insurance, mental health is usually not covered in the same.

 As Indians continue to battle the pandemic, it is important to remember to offer help and reach out to those who you think might be struggling from the impact of the lockdown and the crisis. 

Footnote

 All survey findings and projections are based on the Team CVoter Corona Tracker Mental Health survey waves 1-3 carried out in June 2020 among 18+ adults statewide, including every major demographic. 

The data is weighted to the known demographic profile of every state, including age group, social group, income, region, gender and education levels. (Sample Size: 4,640)

Other Sources: 

https://thewire.in/health/socialfactors-behind-the-stigma-that-surrounds-mental-health-in-india

https://www.livemint.com/Money/ YopMGGZH7w65WTTxgPLoSK/56- Indians-still-dont-have-a-healthcover.html#:~:text=Of%20 the%20population%20with%20 health,government%20health%20 scheme%20(CGHS).

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/how-to-protect-mentalhealth-during-coronavirus/

https://theconversation.com/mentalhealth-impact-of-coronavirus-pandemic-hits-marginalized-groups-hardest-142127

 https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/COVID19Final2020ForOnline9July2020. pdf

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Statistically Speaking

Dealing with ‘silent pandemic’ in the time of coronavirus

Shiv Sehgal

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We consume data on a daily basis from multiple sources and in various formats. Often due to this excessive number crunching and overload of information, the most important messages from data are lost. Polstrat’s objectives include creating methodologies and processes that will help channel a solution-oriented approach and better decision-making. Through “Statistically Speaking” we hope to use political, social and economic data and analyses to judge the mood of the Indian Public.

In this week’s column, we talk about the impact Covid-19 has had on the mental health of people around the country. As billions of people around the world went under lockdown to combat the pandemic, the devastating impact this had on mental health became an important issue. Through a series of surveys carried out in June 2020 we break down the changes in overall mental health of Indians, main reasons for their increased stress, as well as the alarming rate of increase in reports of domestic violence. By highlighting these data points we want to bring awareness to the public domain about the condition of mental health in the country and the gendered impact of the pandemic on those most vulnerable.

Shiv Sehgal is the Director of Polstrat, an Indian political consultancy.

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Statistically Speaking

The big Indian Covid-19 survey

The first truly comprehensive survey looking at the pandemic, the shifting public perception about the lockdown, the govt’s handling of the crisis, and how people see the virus affecting them and their lives.

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The world continues to fight against the Covid-19, which has affected over 20 million people globally and claimed over 739,000 lives. Since the first coronavirus case was detected in India on 30 January 2020 it has spread rapidly, making it the third worst affected country in the world with over 22 lakh cases and 45,000 deaths. The United States continues to be the worst affected country with over 52 lakh cases followed by Brazil with 30 lakh cases.

The coronavirus, which surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now spread to over 200 countries and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Covid-19 is the transmittable infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus and the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. 

The symptoms

A week before the government announced a complete nationwide shutdown forcing 1.3 billion Indians to stay indoors to tackle the spread of coronavirus, Team CVoter, an international polling agency, headquartered in New Delhi, started collecting daily data to track public sentiment about the virus. From 16 March onwards, the Team CVoter’s Covid-19 tracker has been keeping a daily track of issues related to the lockdown, levels of optimism, and preparedness and panic in the country, amongst other factors. In addition to this, in several waves, data has also been collected on important information about changes in levels of income, impact on jobs, the effect on mental health and levels of trust in several institutions, including the Central/ State government, police, army, hospitals. 

 We break down these numbers to show you a complete snapshot of how public perception about the threat of the virus, access to food, medical care, the economic impact of the lockdown, unemployment, trust in government has evolved during the pandemic in India. 

India is currently the third most affected from covid-19, but with increased testing, it could emerge as the top country affected by the pandemic, say health experts.

How scared have Indians been of Covid-19 in the past four months?

As part of the Team CVoter’s Covid-19 tracker survey being conducted daily since 16 March, respondents across the country were asked whether they think they or someone in their family could catch coronavirus and whether they thought the threat from the virus was being exaggerated. Throughout the lockdown period in April and May (till 18 May), the percentage of respondents who thought they or someone in their family could catch Covid-19 remained steady at around 40-45%. 

 However, since the announcement of lockdown 4.0 on 18 May and the subsequent Unlock 1.0 announced from 1 June, we observe that the percentage of respondents who think they or someone in their family could catch the virus has been increasing. Since the announcement of relaxations and the unlock phases, the percentage has been increasing from 44% to around 57.9% as of 6 August. 

 Similarly, until the announcement of the first lockdown, more than half Indians believed that the threat from the virus was being exaggerated. Throughout the month of May (till before Lockdown 4.0) the percentage of Indians who thought the threat of Covid-19 was being exaggerated was stable at around 30%. However, since the lockdown relaxations have been introduced and the subsequent unlock phase, the percentage of Indians who think the threat is being exaggerated has been constantly increasing to around 50.5% as of 6 August. 

The work-from-home myth

Respondents were asked about how the lockdown has affected their workhome life, working patterns, income, job security and optimism about the future. It is important to note that only 27.5% of respondents said that they were able to work from home during the lockdown, while an additional 6.3% of respondents said they were already doing this before the Covid-19 lockdown. This means roughly only 34% of respondents were working from home during the lockdown. 

We further evaluated the disparities in work-fromhome patterns across demographics, including age, gender, education and income. Percentage of respondents in the young age group (below 25) who said they were able to work from home was the highest, followed by those in the (25-45) age group. The ability to work from home also varied slightly by gender, with roughly 30% of males stating they were able to work from home, while only 25% of women said the same. 

 In a country like India where overall Internet penetration is roughly 50%, which also includes mobile Internet subscribers that often don’t have the bandwidth to support daily work, transitioning to work from home is not possible for most people. Additionally, the Indian economy also relies heavily on non-IT companies, small and medium enterprises, BPO, KPO companies, employees working for airlines, leisure, hospitality industry, food preparation, retail sales, production, construction, maintenance and agriculture, most of which do not have the ability to shift to working from home. 

The economic effects of the pandemic

To estimate the economic impact of the lockdown and the pandemic on Indians, including the impact on their income, savings and future expenses, two waves of the economy survey were carried out in May and June 2020. While the percentage of people who reported being laid off or completely out of work reduced in June 2020 after the announcement of the first phase of the unlock process, this figure still remained alarmingly high at 22.2%. When comparing the same across demographics, we observe that respondents from lower education, lower-income, middle-age groups and females reported higher rates of job loss. At the same time, around 56.5% of households had their incomes negatively impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown.

 Additionally, when asked about when they think the economy will be able to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, Indians reported being much more hopeful about the recovery of their personal financial condition than the economy. The majority of respondents (56.5%) said the economy will take more than a year to recover from the crisis, while 48.4% of respondents said they think their own personal financial condition will recover within a year. In addition to this, 39.2% of Indians also reported having lost substantial savings during the lockdown. 

The government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis

Respondents around the country were also asked whether they thought the Indian government was handling the Covid crisis well. It is observed that in the days leading up to the Janta Curfew on 22 March, around 75% of Indians believed that the government was handling the crisis well. After the announcement of the first nationwide lockdown on 24 March, this figure began to increase gradually, reaching 93% in the first few days of April. This high approval rating continued until the end of May. Since the announcement of the opening-up of the economy and the subsequent announcement of the unlock phases in June, the percentage of those who disagree with the way the government has been handling the crisis has been rising. 

 Additionally, as part of the economy battery of the survey, respondents were asked about their views on the relief package announced by the government. Support for the relief packages provided by the government is mixed, with 35.5% of people stating they think it is completely sufficient. Overall 63% think the government relief was sufficient, while 31.5% think it wasn’t.

File photo of a rickshaw-puller passing next to a mural painted on a wall to create awareness about wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. ANI

Access to resources during the lockdown

Respondents were also asked whether they had difficulty obtaining food or medical care during the lockdown, or expected the same to happen in the near future. 20.3% Indians reported having gone hungry or experienced difficulty obtaining food due to the pandemic, showcasing an alarming figure about the reality of hunger/fear of hunger in the country. Respondents were also asked about the availability of food/ration (or money for food or ration) in their households. It is critical to note that throughout various phases of the lockdown, during the months of April and May, roughly 11-13% of Indians still reported having ration/money for ration for less than a week. For a country of 1.35 billion, this would translate to around 150-175 million people who were living hand to mouth throughout the lockdown period. Additionally, 22.5% of Indians reported having difficulty getting general medical care during the lockdown, while an additional 21.6% reported expecting this to happen in the near future. 

Levels of trust in institutions

Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Team CVoter conducted another series of surveys to find out the level of trust Indians placed in several institutions, including the Central/state government, police, Army, hospitals and several others. There was an increase in trust reported by the respondents in the police, Central and state government, while at the same time, the trust in both social media and imported goods from China declined considerably. 

When comparing the 2020 and 2018 figures, we can see that there has been a substantial increase in the level of trust respondents across demographics reported in the police forces. The trust in police saw a dramatic increase of around 40% in light of the ongoing nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Similarly, in 2020, Indians registered an 18.3% increase in trust in both the state and Central government. Respondents were also asked about the level of trust they have in major sources of media. Indians deemed TV news channels to be the most trustworthy (42.3%), followed by newspapers (34.5%) and social media (12.5%). 

There was also a massive decline in trust in private sector banks, with around 34% of respondents indicating that they would like to shift to a public sector bank. Similarly, in 2020, as compared to 2018, the trust Indians place in imported goods from China has fallen from 20.2% to 5.2%. At the same time, respondents who reported having “no trust at all” in Chinese goods increased from 25.8% to 62.6%.

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said that successful implementation of effective containment strategy, aggressive and comprehensive testing coupled with standardised clinical management have resulted in a sharp hike in the recovery rate at nearly 70 per cent.

The methodology

The Team CVoter’s Covid-19 tracker has been conducted every day from 16 March 2020 among 18+ adults statewide, including every major demographic. All the data is weighted to the known demographic profile of every state, including age group, social group, income, region, gender and education levels. 

 Team C-Voter uses Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) technology to carry out the survey, which is an interactive front-end computer system that aids interviewers to ask questions over the telephone. The survey is run in 11 national languages and a predictive dialer picks up the number to be dialled from the list of randomly generated numbers based on various telecom circles and digital exchanges in India; covering all the mobile telephonic service providers in the country, ensuring all of India is covered, both geographically and demographically.

(The map shows a typical coverage routine of the Team C-Voter India Omnibus survey on CATI, whereby, each dot marks one respondent. An omnibus survey is a method of quantitative research where data on a wide variety of subjects is collected during the same interview. Each change in colour marks a different state with a different language/dialect interview.)

Corona Tracker Economic Battery Wave 3 and 4 surveys carried out in May/ June 2020 (Sample Size: 1,474), “Trust in Institutions” survey carried out in 2010, 2018 and April 2020, Daily “Corona Tracker” Poll (From 17 March 2020)

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