New Delhi: A nation-wide survey by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has found that better employment opportunities, better healthcare facilities and provision of drinking water are the top priorities of voters.
The survey, covering 2.73 lakh respondents from 534 Lok Sabha constituencies in 32 states and union territories, found that voters prioritise employment and provision of basic facilities (hospitals, drinking water and roads) over issues like terrorism and a strong defence/military. The survey was conducted between October and December 2018.
It highlights voters’ priorities on 31 listed issues like drinking water, electricity, roads, food, education, healthcare, public transport in their respective regions in terms of its capacity, governance and specific role in improving their living conditions.
Respondents were also asked to rate the government’s performance on these issues. According to ADR, the government’s performance score on the top 10 voters’ priorities is below average. On the issue of ‘Better Employment Opportunities’, the top voters’ priority, the performance was rated as one of the worst (2.15 on a scale of 5, with 3 being the average).
Voters rated the government’s performance on issues like ‘Encroachment of Public Lands, Lakes etc.’, ‘Terrorism’, ‘Training for Jobs’, ‘Strong Defence/Military’, ‘Eradication of Corruption’, ‘Lower Food Prices for Consumers’ and ‘Mining/Quarrying’ as the worst.
In fact, on all the listed issues, voters rated the government’s performance as below average.
The results of a similar survey conducted by the ADR in 2017 also found that ‘Better Employment Opportunities’ and ‘Better Hospitals/Primary Healthcare Centres’ were the top two priorities for voters. However, while 30% of voters said ‘Better Employment Opportunities’ was the top priority in 2017, this rose to 47% in 2018. ‘Better Employment Opportunities’ was the top priority for voters of all genders, social status, age and even in rural and urban areas.
Between 2017 and 2018, voters felt that the government’s performance on this issue declined (3.17 in 2017 to to 2.15 in 2018 on a scale of 5).
This concurs with recent reports that have placed unemployment at its highest in 45 years. The National Sample Survey Office’s periodic labour force survey 2017-18 has also reportedly found that the size of India’s male workforce has reduced for the first time since 1993-94.
In rural areas, issues relating to agriculture were prioritised by voters. Though ‘Better Employment Opportunities’ still remained the top priority (44.21%), it was followed by ‘Availability of Water for Agriculture’ (40.62%), ‘Agricultural Loan Availability’ (39.42%), ‘Higher Price realization for farm products’ (39.09%), ‘Agriculture Subsidy for seeds/fertilisers’ (38.56%) and ‘Electricity for Agriculture’ (36.62%).
These findings come at a time when agriculture in the country has been in a state of crisis. Farmers have been holding protest rallies, demanding better market rates and minimum support prices (MSP).
What sways the vote?
Respondents said that the CM candidate was the most important reason for them to vote for a particular candidate. About 75.11% of voters felt the CM candidate was the most important reason, followed by candidate’s party (71.32%) and the candidate (68.03%) himself/herself.
The survey also found that 41.34% of the respondents vote for a candidate based on distribution of cash, liquor, gifts etc. Almost half the respondents (48%) of the respondents also voted on the basis of the candidate’s caste or religion.
Although 97.86% of voters felt that candidates with criminal records should not be in parliament or assemblies, 36% were willing to vote for a candidate with criminal records of s/he has done ‘good work’ in the past. Additionally, 36.67% of respondents said they voted for candidates with a criminal record because they are unaware of it. Only 35.20% voters knew that they could get information on criminal records of the candidates.