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Education, healthcare highest priority for voting; structural reforms least: ‘DU Mandate’ survey

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A majority of DU students held education and healthcare to be the most important factor on which to cast their vote, but don’t think those issues would dominate electoral discourse. This and more in the fourth part of the electoral survey analysis series.

Often, a disconnect is felt among issues of the voters and the ones that prevail in electoral discourse. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seems to be right in saying that emotive issues become significant for parties to capitalise on during elections. Hence, it’s interesting to see what issues the voters think would dominate electoral campaigns and what issues they would want to see become important in said campaigns.

Part 4_issues imp for voters
Welfare policies and economic issues were a top priority for voters.

When asked to select five issues that were most important to the respondents as voters, ‘education, healthcare and other social welfare policies’ was selected as one by a significant 72.9 percent. ‘Economic policies’ and ‘jobs’ were selected by 58.6 and 56.2 respondents respectively as one of the five issues. On the other hand, ‘structural reforms’ drew the lowest votes (6.4 percent), while ‘representation and reservations’ and ‘centre-state relationship and cooperation” were considered among the most important voting issues by 8.9 percent respondents each. Interestingly, just 13.1 percent were votes pulled in by ‘stability in government’. Even though other questions, as shown in previous articles, illustrated that the ‘possibility of forming an “unstable” government’ was voted third biggest weakness of the opposition parties and that 82.5 percent respondents voted from 1 to 3 out of 5 when asked about likelihood of the opposition forming a stable government, the question of stability didn’t seem all that important to the voters.

Part 4_issues in campaigns
Economic matters, jobs and appeasement are being thought to dominate electoral discourse.

However, a different trend was seen when asked about five issues that would dominate the electoral campaigns and discourse in the run-up to the elections. ‘Welfare policies like education, healthcare etc’ were considered by only 19 percent respondents as one of the five such issues. Even though ‘economic matters’ and ‘jobs’ attracted a large vote share here also, with 63.5 and 53.4 percent respondents respectively selecting them, a considerable 44.6 percent also thought that ‘communal, sectarian appeasement’ would be important. This becomes clearer in light of recent developments – Yogi Adityanath’s “Ali-Bajrang Bali” comments, Narendra Modi questioning Rahul Gandhi’s contestation from a seat where “majority is in minority” (Wayanad), Mayawati’s open appeal to Muslims for votes, are among the many implicit and explicit communal remarks already made by various leaders.

Two other questions that were asked in the ‘Electoral and voting patterns’ section of the survey were whether people should vote keeping in mind the party or the candidate in a constituency, and whether the voters thought that it was a ‘Modi vs Rest’ election as had largely been portrayed in the media and by the BJP.

Part 4_party or candidate
Over two-thirds of all respondents felt voting keeping in mind the candidate was better than doing so for the party.

Part 4_Modi v rest
Nearly three-quarters of total respondents think the election will be about Modi vs the rest of the opposition.

Regarding the former, 67.2 percent respondents believed that people should vote for the candidate, while the remaining 32.8 percent chose the party. This is interesting because the in the latter question, 73.9 percent said that it was a ‘Modi vs Rest’ election. Hence, a sort of paradoxical situation seems to be created: while a large portion of respondents thinks voting for candidates in a constituency is better than voting for the party, a majority also feels the election is about Mr Modi against all the opposition, hence putting more focus on the Prime Minister rather than individual candidates. However, a benefit of doubt may be given and this trend can be interpreted as an outcome of the different nature of state level and union elections. While candidates for the state legislatures seem to be more connected with their constituency, the big faces are perhaps seen as more important at the national level.


While issues like employment and economy were prevalent both in voters’ individual concerns and their predictions about how the electoral campaigns would turn out, a disconnect between the two is seen in terms of communal or sectarian appeasement – there’s a prediction that it will be talked about by parties, as is being done so, but it doesn’t appeal to the common DU voter. Conversely, while education and healthcare remain the top priority for voters, not even one-fifth think that it would become a significant electoral issue. Curiously, voters didn’t think structural reforms were a major voting concern for them and neither did ‘transparency and anti-corruption’ attract a large quantity of votes. This can be understood in light of how the last five years have turned out. The government has been able to shield itself from any large corruption allegations unlike its predecessor. Perhaps due to digitisation of various official processes, structural reforms don’t seem like a major concern right now; or perhaps our sample simply was more concerned with immediate requirements of welfare and jobs.

Even though economy was considered a major failure of the current government and it remains an important election issue, so do issues like national security and education, healthcare and other governmental welfare policies, both of which were seen as successes of the government. Couple this with the still high popularity of Mr Modi and a correlation can be seen between areas where the government delivered and the issues important for voters, on the one hand, and the likelihood of the NDA retaining power.

Hence, while there is clear dissatisfaction, the government seems to have done just enough to keep its ship sailing.
Image credits-
1. Cover – India Today
2. (Part 4_issues imp for voters), (Part 4_issues in campaigns) – Palak Mittal for DU Beat
3. (Other two graphs) – ‘DU Mandate’ by DU Beat/Prateek Pankaj for DU Beat

Prateek Pankaj
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