Elections for the Uttar Pradesh state assembly, Indias largest state -- 138 million voters -- start on February 11, but 40% of its voters said they still don't know which political party they will vote for, according to a new survey conducted by by FourthLion Technologies, a data analytics and public opinion polling firm, for IndiaSpend.
The firm conducted 2,513 telephone interviews in Hindi of registered voters in Uttar Pradesh, and said their sample is representative of the state's urban and rural voters as well as socioeconomic, age, gender and caste make-up. The survey was conducted between January 24 and January 31.
Overall, 28 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if the polls were held immediately, while 18 per cent of those surveyed would vote for the Samajwadi Party (SP) that currently leads the state, four per cent would vote for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Mayawati, while one per cent would vote for the Congress party.
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 per cent) suggests that any party could have more popular support.
The survey found that half of all women are undecided, as are 45 per cent of those between the age of 30 and 44 years, 42 per cent of those living in rural areas, 43 per cent of Dalits, 44 per cent of those from Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and 43 per cent of the poor. The indicator on income is based on vehicle ownership, with the poorest owning no two-wheeler or car.
Out of all those who said they hadn't decided whom to vote for, a majority were from OBCS (38 per cent) and Dalit (21 per cent). As many as 70 per cent also said they owned no vehicle, which could be a sign of the level of income.
"People don't want to give away which party they support," and so say that they haven't decided, 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 election day, said Sircar.
The election in the state is in seven phases, over one month, beginning February 11. Voters might decide whom to support based on which party they perceive has greater support in the first few phases.
"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 mind 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 per cent of those supporting the BJP said they were from the OBCs, 11 per cent said they were Muslims, while 22 per cent said they were Dalits. A higher percentage of the SP's supporters said they were Muslim (29 per cent), while fewer said they were Dalits (14 per cent). Most of BSP's supporters identified as Dalits (40 per cent), while 22 per cent said they were from the OBCs, and 16 per cent said they were Muslim.
In 2014, the BJP had won 81 per cent of 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.
Both parliamentary and state elections in India take place every five years, though they follow different cycles. The last state 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.
# In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Shreya Shah is a writer/editor. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org