The Pew poll asked people in 47 countries if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others.” Indians topped the list, with a whopping 93 per cent agreeing that our culture was superior to others, with 64 per cent agreeing completely, without any reservations.
Now all people have a soft spot for their own culture. But to see how off-the-charts our vanity is, let us compare ourselves with the other “ancient civilisations” in our neighbourhood. Compared to our 64 per cent, only 18 per cent of the Japanese and only 20 per cent Chinese had no doubt at all that their culture was the best. Indeed, close to one quarter of Japanese and Chinese — as compared to our meagre 5 per cent — disagreed that their ways were the best.
The U.S. — a country universally condemned for its cultural imperialism — comes across as suffering from a severe case of inferiority complex when compared with us. Only 18 per cent Americans had no doubts about the superiority of their culture, compared with our 64 per cent. Nearly a quarter of Americans expressed self-doubts, and 16 per cent completely denied their own superiority. The corresponding numbers from India are five and one per cent. (link)
The obvious question to speculate on (and please, speculate away) is where this discrepancy comes from. I personally don't know...
A bit more:
The strange thing is that for a people who think so highly of our own culture, we are terribly insecure. A startling 92 per cent of Indians — almost exactly the same proportion who think we are the best — think that “our way of life needs to be protected against foreign influences.” Here, too, we beat the Japanese, the Chinese, and the Americans by about 25-30 percentage points. When it comes to feeling embattled and needing protection, we are closer to our Islamic neighbours, Pakistan (82 per cent) and Bangladesh (81 per cent). Indeed, we feel so embattled that 84 per cent of us want to restrict entry of people into the country, compared with only 75 per cent of those asked in the U.S., a country where legal and illegal immigration is of a magnitude higher than anywhere in the world.
So, paradoxically, our vanity is matched only by our persecution complex. (link)
It is kind of surprising that more Indians want immigration controls than Americans, especially considering how hot the immigration issue is in the U.S. right now. (Perhaps India is like Iowa; the fewer immigrants you actually have, the more you worry bout immigration?)
Nanda also summarizes the report's findings on Indians' attitudes to the role of government on helping the poor, and the proper role of religion in government (Indians are personally religious, but they also strongly support separation of church and state). The entire report can be found here (PDF) and the Pew Center's brief summary is here.