A pre-election survey conducted by Lokniti in the last week of March suggests that three decisions of the National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi taken between January 7 and February 26 might have the ability to change the course of what could have been a close election. These included the decision to accord 10% reservations to economically weaker sections on January 7, announcing the
PM-KISAN scheme to transfer money to farmers on February 1 and the air strikes within Pakistan following the Pulwama attack in the last week of February.
The CSDS-Lokniti-The Hindu-Tiranga TV-Dainik Bhaskar Pre-Poll Survey 2019 found that 43% of the respondents favoured Mr. Modi as Prime Minister, a good seven points higher than what was registered in 2014 by Lokniti. This is also nine points higher than the 34% support registered in May 2018 in Lokniti’s poll across the same States. It is also important to note that
However, most respondents in the survey did not openly say that the three issues would be the most important voting issues for them. When asked to state what the single most important voting issue will be for them, one-fifth of the respondents said it would be unemployment and one-sixth said development. Barely 2% said that national security and the air strikes against Pakistan would be the single most important voting issue for them. Reservation was cited by only 3%. Other data from the survey suggests that the three decisions seem to have had impacted voter preferences and opinions, quite possibly at a sub-conscious level.
Four of five respondents were found to have heard or read about the
Balakot strike and among them preference for Mr. Modi as the next Prime Minister was found to be at 46%. On the other hand among those who weren’t aware of the Balakot strike, Mr. Modi’s acceptability was just 32%. This difference could be seen across all regions including South India where Mr. Modi’s is relatively less favoured compared to other regions. Similarly, among those who had heard of reservations for the general category (57%), Mr. Modi was preferred by 47% of the respondents and 37% among those who had not. Farmers who claimed to have received money in their accounts in the last one month were far more likely to want Mr. Modi as the next PM than those who had not, 54% to 42%. However, in the southern and the eastern regions, where some of the State governments have similar money transfer schemes, this difference was not clearly visible.
Awareness about Balakot, reservations and cash transfers was also found to be making a difference to whether voters wanted to give the government another chance or not. Those who had heard or read about the Balakot strike were far more likely to want the NDA government to return to power than those who had not by a gap of 20 percentage points (50% vs 30%). Similarly being aware and unaware of the reservation decision and cash transfers yielded a 17-percentage point gap.
Awareness about the decisions seems to have blunted the adverse effect of “unemployment” on the government’s re-election bid. Respondents for whom unemployment and price rise were the biggest voting issues but aware of these decisions were more likely to want the government to return to power than those unaware.
Interestingly, this differing sentiment about the government and its leadership among those aware and unaware was also found across castes and communities, including among those communities that have traditionally voted for the BJP. For instance, the survey found less than one sixth of upper castes to be unaware about the Balakot strikes and among them the inclination to give the Modi government another chance was found to be more than two times less than for those who were aware, 31% to 63%.
Dalits who were not aware of the Balakot strike were far more likely to want the government to go. On the other hand, Dalits who were aware of the air strikes were split down the middle on the issue of whether or not to give the government another chance.
Close to half the respondents gave the credit for the air strikes to the Indian Air Force only. Two-tenths of the respondents exclusively gave credit to the Modi government. About one in every ten said that both the Air Force and the government deserved credit. Also, significantly, even though three-fifths of the respondents agreed that the BJP was trying to take the credit for the air strike for electoral gain, a plurality among them (46%) nonetheless favoured giving the government another chance.
In contrast to the effect of the three decisions, the impact of the Rafale deal controversy and the Congress’s assurance of a minimum income guarantee to the poor were found to be not as strong. Half the respondents were not found to be aware of the Rafale controversy, and even among the other half that was aware, opinion on whether there had been wrongdoing by the government in the deal was nearly split down the middle — 41% believed so and 37% felt otherwise. A sizeable proportion (31%) among those who felt that there had been wrongdoing was in favour of giving the government another chance.
Question: People have different opinions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some say he is a clean and honest man who has tried his best to control corruption, others say he is himself corrupt, and some others say that he may be clean and honest but he has done nothing to control corruption. Which one of these do you agree with?
Just about half the respondents (48%) polled had heard about the Congress’ NYAY promise and awareness was lower still among respondents who may stand to benefit from it. The promise was however made right in the middle of the survey. The Congress president Rahul Gandhi is far more popular among those who were aware about NYAY.
The key to the Congress’s success at blunting Mr. Modi’s advantage may therefore lie in further popularising the scheme in the days and weeks ahead. But with the election set to begin in a week’s time, is this too late in the day?