40 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s Voters Still Undecided, Finds Poll
Overall, 28 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the BJP if the polls were held immediately.
Elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with 138 million voters, start on 11 February. But 40 percent of its voters said they still don't know which political party they will vote for, according to a new survey conducted by FourthLion Technologies, a data analytics and public opinion polling firm, for IndiaSpend.
The firm conducted 2,513 telephonic interviews in Hindi of registered voters in the state, and said their sample is representative of the state’s urban and rural voters as well as socio-economic, age, gender and caste make-up. The survey was conducted between 24-31 January.
Overall, 28 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for the BJP if the polls were held immediately, while 18 percent of those surveyed would pick the Samajwadi Party (SP) that currently heads the state. Four percent would vote for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Mayawati, while one percent for the Congress.
The FourthLion-IndiaSpend survey asked voters about the the four parties that won the most seats in the last state and parliamentary elections. The survey did not measure how many seats a party would win, and only suggests popular support for different political parties. It cannot be interpreted as indicative of election results.
The large percentage of undecided voters (40 percent) suggests that any party could have more popular support.
The survey found that half of all women voters are undecided, as are 45 percent of those between the age of 30 and 44 years, 42 percent of those living in rural areas, 43 percent of Dalits, 44 percent of those from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 43 percent of the poor. The indicator on income is based on vehicle ownership, with the poorest owning no two-wheelers or car.
Out of all those who said they hadn’t decided whom to vote for, a majority were from the OBC category (38 percent) and Dalits (21 percent). As many as 70 percent also said they owned no vehicle, which could be a sign of the level of income.
Voting for Benefits
“People don’t want to give away which party they support,” and so they say they haven’t decided who to vote for, said Neelanjan Sircar, senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, a public policy think tank.
He explained that many people want to vote for the winning party, as that might be a criteria for getting benefits after the election. Or, voters might talk with family members and friends and take the decision a day or two before the election day, he added.
The election in the state will be held in seven phases, over one month, beginning 11 February. Voters might decide whom to support based on which party they perceive has greater support in the first few phases.
Influence Over Electoral Mood
“Recent electoral trends have shown that the first few phases end up having disproportionate influence over the electoral mood,” wrote Prashant Jha, author and associate editor of Hindustan Times.
“Most voters make up their minds much before the election,” said Yashwant Deshmukh, founder of C-Voter, a Noida-based election research and polling organisation, and change their mind only if anything very critical happens. Some voters who are particularly sensitive to caste or religion might wait until the candidate is announced to decide whom they will vote for, he added.
As many as 33 percent of those supporting the BJP said they were from the OBCs, 11 percent said they were Muslims, while 22 percent were Dalits.
A higher percentage of the SP’s supporters said they were Muslim (29 percent), while fewer said they were Dalits (14 percent). Most of BSP’s supporters identified as Dalits (40 percent), while 22 percent said they were from the OBCs, and 16 percent said they were Muslim.
Shift in Loyalties
In 2014, the BJP had won 81 percent of the votes for 403 seats in the parliamentary elections, and “it would take a massive shift of loyalties” of BJP voters in 2014 for the party to lose the 2017 state Assembly election, according to a January 2017 analysis by Praveen Chakravarty, a senior fellow in political economy at IDFC Institute.
The last Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh was in 2012, when the SP won 224 seats to form the government. The BJP had won 47 seats, the BSP 80 seats, and Congress 28 seats. Other parties, including the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Qaumi Ekta Dal, won 24 seats.
(The article was published in a special arrangement with IndiaSpend, with whom Shreya Shah is a writer/editor. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend.)
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