Nepali Times
The terrain shifts


Year after year, Himalmedia polls have shown that despite hardships or during the darkest days of war, a majority of Nepalis were always hopeful about the future. Nearly all respondents in every poll have said they are worried about the lack of development and jobs, about endemic corruption and inflation, but they have kept an optimistic outlook. The public never held their rulers in very high esteem, but realise that they are what they are.

This year's poll is no different. The Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2012 shows that inflation remains the number one preoccupation of the people with 92% saying it is worse than last year, and 64% saying corruption is worse. Politics is way down in their list of concerns, and the constitution is important only in as much as it has a bearing on peace. But a majority of respondents still feel things are improving, and 85% of those in the Himal and Pahad cite road access as the biggest progress.

Disaggregating the data, however, shows a stark difference in the perception of development in the Tarai where half the respondents said there has been little development. Interestingly, those who can't read or write seem happier, and the more educated the respondents the more dissatisfied they seem to be with the pace of development.

Nepalis seem disillusioned with a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy and want direct franchise to elect future executive presidents or prime ministers. Asked which form of government they would prefer, nearly 40% favoured a directly-elected presidential system, and 25% wanted to vote directly for prime ministers.

The most dramatic change this year compared to the last few polls has been in the perception of top political personalities. Most respondents give credit to Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (37% and 20% respectively) for concluding the peace process.

When asked who they would directly vote for as executive prime minister or president, Bhattarai topped the list of names of 12 senior leaders from four parties with a 30.6% approval rating. Pushpa Kamal Dahal trailed with 8.6%, and President Ram Baran Yadav ranked second with 10.4% of votes. The Baidya faction was nowhere in the picture, and all other leaders of the NC, UML and Madhesis were in the single digits, or even below 1%. Surprisingly, even though his name was not on the list, many said they would vote for Gagan Thapa. But the popularity contest is still up for grabs because one-third of the respondents said they didn't know or didn't want to say.

A new question in this year's poll dealt with the performance of the Baburam Bhattarai government which came to power in November last year. Nearly 60% of respondents gave Bhattarai a thumbs up, while 26% felt there was no difference between this government and previous ones.

In a surprising departure from these results, when asked to rank the parties they trusted the most to take Nepal forward towards peace and prosperity, the Nepali Congress pipped the Maoists with 66% versus 63% and the UML got 61%. Nearly 20 percent didn't have a preference. Contrary to popular belief, there seems to be scant correlation between support for the Maoist party and age, gender, ethnicity. Support for other parties among young people and ethnic groups was more or less even.

The poll was taken a month before the deadline for the constitution, and as last year, half the respondents are convinced that a new statute will not be ready by 27 May, and a third of them said it was because none of the big parties actually want a new constitution. The people seem more optimistic this year compared to a year ago when 75% thought a new constitution would not be written by the deadline. If a constitution is not written, most respondents still think a new election is the best way forward. Like in the 2011 survey, most of those interviewed (42%) felt the Maoist were mainly responsible for delays in the constitution.

On the most contentious issues in the new constitution, there is a clear majority against demarcating future federal units along ethnic lines. A full 73% of the respondents rejected ethnicity-based federal units and only 14% were undecided. Last year, 76% had said no to ethnic federalism. Interestingly, like last year, 64% of hill ethnic respondents, 70% of Newars and 57% of Madhesi ethnics (which include the Tharus) didn't want federal units for ethnic groups.

Asked what would be an alternative model for federal units, 45% favoured north-south territorial units that include Himal, Pahad and Tarai and the proportion of people who support this are equal in all three regions. Thirty per cent wanted the current zones to be simply converted into federal units.

Himalmedia Polls

Himalmedia has been conducting public opinion polls nearly every year since 2000 to gauge the public pulse. Over the years, in monarchy or republic, war or peace, the surveys have served as important barometers of Nepali people's regard (or disregard) for their rulers, the relative popularity of political parties, and recorded the main concerns of the people.

Past polls have accurately predicted the results of elections, and served as rough referenda on the rise and fall of political personalities. Which must be why they have often been criticised as being biased or unscientific by leaders who do not fare well. But when they do better in the surveys than their rivals, the same parties have held up survey results to prove their popularity.

Former king Gyanendra once scoffed at public opinion polls, saying they served no purpose in a country like Nepal, only to lose his throne soon after. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who has always done well in opinion surveys (except this year) famously boasted after the 2009 survey: "Even a media house that has always been critical of our party has said I am the leader the people trust the most."

This year's Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey was based on interviews with 3,210 respondents in 38 districts selected through a non-random sampling method in April. More than 60 enumerators fanned out across the country to select respondents between the ages of 18-60, and asked 39 questions during the week of 22-29 April.

Compared to the 2011 survey, enumerators felt respondents were even less hesitant to answer interview questions, volunteering their names and phone numbers. In one case, when an enumerator had misplaced her pen and was ticking off boxes with a pencil, a respondent insisted that she use a pen. The full disaggregated tabulation of the poll is available.

Read also:
Voters' voice

Make-or-break media

More things change more they stay the same

The times they are changing, ANURAG ACHARYA

Nation's pulse, #553

Few surprises, #553

1. rishikes

Why is there no polls on Constitutional monarchy? why not also on secularism? The meaning of Hindu RELIGION,,actually called sanatan DHARMA is Secular thought.

thank u

2. Dandi Baba
Abhaktaya na databhayam pranai katha gatai ra pi.

Don,t give your vote or consent or mantra to a non-believer.
That means don,t vote for an infidel.
or a liar or a fraud .
 This can be expanded to mean a deceiver or a confimed liar.
 So this has been portrayed by the poll.
Thank you Himal Nedia for enlightening the public this time also.


3. LaluPrashad
Now Prachanda will have to expose Hisila,s exploits for gaining points against Baburam. She has many.

4. Ramji
It seems that the survey methodology was not perfect as respondents were not selected randomly. At least, the enumerators should have reached to all ethnic groups proportionately.

5. Bhoj
Who cares about these stupid statistics which can easily be manipulated to suit one's purpose. It is for all to see the people protesting on the streets which speaks volume as to how biased these statistics can be.

These numbers should never be taken seriously. Let people of all ethnicity decide their fate. Anyway, no expects a tuck house media named "Himal" to be arbitrator of people of all background.

A junk like this quantified doesn't shift any terrain in fact sow seeds of discontent and disharmony.   

6. Nepali Times
Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2012
Complete poll data:

7. Gaury Adhikary
For what ever it is worth, I feel good about for the first time about Nepal and Nepali since Jana Andolan of 2006.
Fact that common Nepali held common sense ( that they are worried more  about economics  than politics )  tells a lot through numbers in this survey.
Nepali times has done a great service to Nepali people and their destiny by publishing this survey data at an important juncture of our quest for democracy , freedom and equality.

Thank you very much to the Himal Media and all the data collectors and respondent!

with best.

8. Dinesh

This is another  brilliant work by Himal media on quality reporting. Hopefully this sets a precedence amongst our political elites to start listening to what people are saying in measurable terms.

Looking forward to similar statistics in other areas of health, education, economy so that a proper policy development are encouraged to support the need of x% of Nepali that find it hard to make the ends meet.

9. Digshit
Anyone can generate such data as Himal media and publish whatever they like. Remember media is always free to bend, twist and turn the rules as and when it suits their purpose. 

What is the meaning of Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey? A survey of hill origin public in media. Looking at the survey from the preceding perspective, these statistics seems self-explainatory and unquestionable. 

Keep such statistics pouring in order to create myth among readers and maintain influence over privileged groups.  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)