India Today Mood of the Nation Survey's Data on Modi & Yogi Doesn't Add Up

Is the India Today survey underestimating PM Modi and overestimating Yogi Adityanath?

7 min read
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India Today's latest Mood of the Nation Survey came up with a surprising finding – that the proportion of people who find Narendra Modi as the most suitable person to be India's next Prime Minister has fallen from 38 percent in January 2021 to 24 percent in August 2021.

This is a massive fall and the PM's lowest popularity rating in the last seven years he has held office.

Since the fall has taken place during the last six months, it can broadly be attributed to the PM's handling of the COVID-19 second wave, his handling of the economy with inflation being the main factor, and the BJP's defeat in the Bengal Assembly elections.

This article will look at three aspects:

1. How credible are the findings of the survey regarding the fall in Modi's popularity?

2. Is the survey correct regarding the popularity of Yogi Adityanath?

3. What is the big picture emerging from the survey?



The survey has a sample size of 15,000, which is decent for a national survey. It may not be very reliable if one is looking for specific insights from smaller states. For instance, it may not be useful to ascertain the popularity of the CM in a state like Goa or Manipur as the sample size from that state may be low. But to get a national picture, a sample size of 15,000 is fine.

However, there are a few aspects on the survey's biggest finding –PM Modi's decreased popularity – which do raise a few questions.

1. Comparison With Other Surveys

Most of the other national surveys conducted also indicate a fall in PM Modi's popularity in the last six months. However, their conclusion was that the fall took place around April-May when the COVID-19 second wave was at its peak.

The Quint had earlier reported on the factor that caused a 22-point fall in PM Modi's popularity. The data seemed to suggest that it wasn't just the pandemic, but the PM's decision to continue campaigning in Bengal that may have contributed to the fall.

Read this story to know more about the fall in PM Modi's popularity during that period.

This is based on data from at least two major surveys: CVoter's National Tracker and Morning Consult's Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker.

However, both these surveys also said that the PM's rating began improving in June and July. The fall in popularity predicted by these two surveys isn't to the same extent as the 'Mood of the Nation' survey. While the Morning Consult's poll deals with only approval ratings and not PM choice, CVoter's tracker deals with the latter as well.

According to CVoter's tracker, presently over 40 percent respondents picked PM Modi as their choice as India's next PM. There has been a fall even in this tracker, but it is not to the same extent as India Today's Mood of the Nation survey.

Is the India Today survey underestimating PM Modi and overestimating Yogi Adityanath?

According to India Today Mood of the Nation Survey, proportion of people choosing Modi as India's next PM has reduced.

(Kamran Akhter/The Quint)


2. Best PM Rankings

One of the questions asked in the India Today-Karvy survey was: "Who do you think has been India's best prime minister so far?".

In response to this question, 27 percent respondents picked PM Modi, 19 percent picked Atal Bihar Vajpayee, 14 percent picked Indira Gandhi, 11 percent Manmohan Singh, 8 percent Jawaharlal Nehru, 7 percent Rajiv Gandhi, 6 percent Lal Bahadur Shastri, 3 percent PV Narasimha Rao, and VP Singh and Morarji Desai were at 2 percent each.

So this means a greater number of people picked Modi as "India's best PM ever" than those who wanted him to be "India's next PM".

It is curious that Modi fared better in competition with tall former PMs like Jawaharlal Nehru, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi, VP Singh, et al as compared to present competitors, like Yogi Adityanath, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Sonia Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Politically, this seems strange. From a survey point of view, this is possible but it could be the result of a distortion that is taking place in the survey. We will discuss this distortion later.

3. Satisfaction Rating

In the Mood of the Nation survey, 16 percent people rated PM Modi's performance as "outstanding", 38 percent rated it as "good", 30 percent rated it as "average", 11 percent as "poor", and 5 percent as "very poor". This means that 54 percent have a positive view of Modi's performance.

Now, let's assume that all those who have a positive view of Modi's performance would pick either him or someone else from BJP as most suitable for being India's next PM. But the combined preference for Modi (24 percent), Yogi Adityanath (11 percent) and Amit Shah (7 percent): is 42 percent. This means that at least 12 percent of those who have a positive view of Modi's performance, are choosing someone else as the next PM. Who can that be? Someone in the Opposition? Or another BJP leader whose name didn't get reflected in the survey? Or are they undecided?

It is strange that there is such a sizeable chunk of people who find Modi's performance "good" and yet isn't picking either Modi, Yogi, or Amit Shah as their choice as next PM.

This does indicate that the PM's popularity is being underestimated.



The distortion we were referring to earlier is UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. With 11 percent picking him, the survey says he is the second-most popular PM choice after Modi. He is marginally ahead of Rahul Gandhi (10 percent), Arvind Kejriwal (8 percent), Mamata Banerjee (8 percent), Amit Shah (7 percent), Sonia Gandhi (4 percent), Priyanka Gandhi (4 percent).

Adityanath has gone up to 11 percent from 10 percent in January 2021 and 3 percent in August 2020.

However, Adityanath's own approval rating in his own state has gone down from 49 percent in August 2020 to 39 percent in January 2021 and 29 percent in August 2021.

Is the India Today survey underestimating PM Modi and overestimating Yogi Adityanath?

Yogi Adityanath popularity in his home state is below many other CMs.

(Kamran Akhter/The Quint)

So, this is curious. While Yogi's approval rating in his own state has gone down by a massive 20 percentage points in one year, people picking him as the next PM has gone up by 8 percentage points.

It is difficult to understand how this happened. It is highly unlikely that this eight percent increase has come from Uttar Pradesh, where his popularity has fallen substantially. And UP, being the most populous state, is bound to account for a sizeable part of the total sample size.

Just for the sake of comparison, according to CVoter's tracker, the proportion of people choosing Adityanath as the next PM is less than 3 percent.

It is possible that there has been a sampling error or a sizeable chunk of pro-Hindutva respondents tactically chose Yogi Adityanath over PM Modi in the Mood of the Nation survey. The tactical choice by Hindutva voters would also explain why Modi fares better in comparison to past PMs than present competitors as for a section of Hindutva voters, Modi may be the best PM so far, but Yogi could be a better one.

So, it's either tactical voting or a faulty sampling.

Even earlier, the India Today Mood of the Nation survey had used a faulty methodology and projected Yogi Adityanath as the most popular CM in the country, even though his popularity in his own state had gone down.

Read this report to know more.

Like Modi's popularity, the Yogi equation in the Mood of the Nation survey doesn't add up. It is possible that the survey is overestimating Yogi's popularity and underestimating Modi's.



Three aspects from this survey are in line with other surveys, such as CVoter:

1. Economic issues are becoming more and more important. The economy is being considered the Modi government's biggest failure. Within economic issues, inflation is emerging as a bigger issue than unemployment.

Historically, inflation has been politically more harmful for incumbent governments than unemployment. Therefore, price rise could be a major contributing factor to the fall in the popularity of the BJP government.

2. Non-BJP CMs trump BJP CMs: The Mood of the Nation survey is again similar to the CVoter survey. In the MOTN survey, MK Stalin is the most popular CM in his own state, followed by Naveen Patnaik and Pinarayi Vijayan and Uddhav Thackeray. Only two out of the top 10 CMs are from the BJP: Himanta Biswa Sarma and Yogi Adityanath. Only one is from the Congress - Ashok Gehlot, while three are Congress supported CMs: MK Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren.

3. Flux in the Opposition space: The survey does reveal an improvement in the Opposition's prospects. According to the survey, if elections are held today, the UPA could get 105 seats and other non-NDA parties could get 140. The NDA is at 298. This means that if the Opposition does come together, it could make matters difficult for the BJP.

However, the survey reveals a flux within the Opposition space, with no one leader emerging as the main challenger to Modi, even though the individual popularities of Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, and Arvind Kejriwal have marginally increased.

Though this might be stating the obvious, in the days to come a great deal would depend on the government's ability to either address economic woes or come up with a diversion. Conversely, it would be up to the Opposition to keep the focus on the economy. A lot would depend on what happens in UP. If Yogi Adityanath comes back to power with a sizable majority, his popularity within the BJP space could increase, possibly at Modi's expense. On the other hand, if he loses, it may provide a major boost to the Opposition.

This places Modi in a curious position - winning UP could strengthen a rival within his own party but losing it could strengthen the party's rivals.

If there's one thing this survey has done, it is to reopen the Modi-vs-Yogi debate.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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