VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN INDIA AND ITS DETERMINANTS

INTRODUCTION:

In early times, voting behavior was heavily analyzed on various demographic factors such as income, education, occupation, etc. Today, voting turnout is also assessed based on interest in politics, frequency of participation, political debates, media coverage, etc.  It is noted that people with higher education, awareness, income, and good occupational status vote more in comparison to those with lower levels of these attributes. In general, men vote more than women, urban people vote more than the rural, age group of 30-55 vote more than the younger or older voters, married vote more than unmarried, higher-status people vote more than lower status. Although, party loyalty also plays a vital role in voter’s decision-making process the voters are now focusing more on issues, the economy, the competence of political leaders and parties. The failure on the part of the government to fulfill its promises, implement public benefiting policies, corrupt government officials, inability to handle any crisis make the voters decide against the government, and vote for change.

DETERMINANTS OF VOTING BEHAVIOUR:

The main factors determining voting behavior during the elections are as follows-

ECONOMIC GROWTH- The popularity of the government and its good prospects depend on how the government has helped the country to grow economically. Unemployment, poverty, low GDP, inflation, the country’s trade balance help people to decide to vote for a political party. The voters analyze what the government has done for the common masses during its tenure.

CHARISMA OF THE LEADER OF POLITICAL PARTY– Policies and political parties are considered by the voters but they mainly vote based on the charisma of the strong political leaders. As the leaders change more often than the parties the political success of the parties depends on how appealing and popular the party’s current leader is. The experience of the candidate, his qualification, occupation, and his image among the common people determine the electoral choice of the voters.

MASS MEDIA– Television and newspaper coverage on political issues has a huge impact on voting behavior. Television’s direct visual evidence and self-proclaimed neutrality of the television channels play with the minds of the voters. In today’s times, the credibility of mass media is in question as it is said that most of the television news channels and newspapers manipulate the facts either in favor of the government or the rich business class people who bribe them. Media being a major channel for political communication provides an agenda for political discussion. Various political debates are shown by television news channel editors having complex arguments that influence the thinking and views of the voters. Through cable and satellite, television with its high pictorial content is by far the most important medium of electoral communication.

CAMPAIGN- Through election campaigns ruling and opposition political parties discuss their party’s manifesto, policies, achievements, plans, and also the performance of the current government. Intensive reviews are done by the opposition parties to highlight the failures of the government. Criticizing the opponent is the main feature of political campaigns. Various strategies are made by the senior party leaders to show their political party as a better option to the voters. The main aim of the election campaign is to maximize its votes to come to power.

CANVASSING– The eighteenth century saw the rise of canvassing to persuade individual voters with bribes, threatening to support a particular political party or party’s candidate. However, with the development of maas media and universal suffrage canvassing shifted from persuasion to mobilization of existing supporters. To do this the canvassing largely depends on the work of the local activists of the political parties. Further, canvassing also increases the turnout of the voters in elections.

MONEY– Many people raise the question of whether money can buy votes. In many democracies, a substantial amount of political campaign expenditure is necessary for success in elections. Selling and buying of politicians have become a common phenomenon. Political parties take financial donations and funds from rich business class people to finance their campaigns as the increasing cost of model campaigns are a growing burden on political parties. These elite business class in return ask the government to pass policies and laws favorable to them to gain long-term financial profits from the amount of money spent by them on the election campaign. Most of the democracies require the political parties to show or disclose the expenditure incurred by them in campaigning and canvassing for elections.

OPINION POLLS– The opinion polls are central to the election campaign in a democracy. The political parties frame their strategies based on their poll ratings. If opinion polls are conducted properly then they can help in measuring the thinking of the common people about various political parties and their candidates. Newspapers and television news channels broadcast their opinion polls to show the intentions of the voters. However, the opinion polls can be manipulated at various levels like choosing the questions, time to ask questions, and so on. Many complaints have been made against biased opinion polls being reported in favor of a particular political party. A well-conducted opinion poll is usually remarkably accurate. The reporting of opinion polls should be subject to regulations by the electoral supervisory body to ensure that the media is not spreading falsehood deliberately. The election polls are a reflection of the people’s views and intentions. Laws and regulations on media coverage of elections try to control how the opinion polls are reported.  Many people do not consider opinion polls before voting as their influence is not direct but indirect on the voters.

RELIGION, CASTE, AND LANGUAGE– India though is a secular country having no official religion but still is a major factor considered by the people before casting their vote. Many political parties are also named as per the religion of their members. Caste is still deep-rooted in India. People belonging to a particular caste vote for their caste candidate in elections. Further, language is a major factor in the mind of the voter. People tend to vote for those candidates who speak their language so that their language gets recognized and accepted as one of the main languages spoken in India. Although the Constitution of India has forbidden any kind of discrimination based on religions, caste, or language still people tend to discriminate against the eligible candidates who do not belong to their caste, religion, or language.

CONCLUSION:

The nature of the electoral choice of voters varies across countries, time and voters. In a country aiming to bring planned social change through democracy, the study of voter’s electoral behavior and its impact on political development is significant. The people while casting their votes should not get carried away by their ideologies, political views, or fake news spread by media owned and controlled by the rich business class. Votes should be given based on the social, economic, health issues in a country and the people should judge a government based on its performance for lifting the standard and quality of life of the common people.

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