CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey | Issues that are likely to dominate the Lok Sabha election

Unemployment, price rise, and development are the top three issues; neither corruption nor Ram Mandir mentioned by voters as their most important concerns

April 11, 2024 05:50 am | Updated 11:18 am IST

Job seekers at attend Aspire 2024 jointly organised by District Employment office and Vocational Higher Secondary Department at SRV Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in the city.

Job seekers at attend Aspire 2024 jointly organised by District Employment office and Vocational Higher Secondary Department at SRV Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in the city. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

In an electoral battle, issues are shaped through three processes. First, issues that are pushed by the talking classes, the media, the opinion makers, and the like. This is often known as ‘agenda setting’. Second, the political parties try and focus on issues that they believe are of importance and/or issues that they find easy to mobilise. Finally, irrespective of the former two processes, some issues may be occupying the public’s attention because they are part of the actual experience of the voters.

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In order to capture the third set of issues, the pre-poll survey conducted by CSDS-Lokniti asked an open-ended question to respondents to identify an issue that they thought was most important in arriving at voting decision. Three issues appear at the top of the list: unemployment, price rise, and development. While respondents concerned most with development may tilt toward the BJP, voters’ concern about unemployment and price rise may hold a red flag for the party. That such respondents account for half of the sample should be a cause for concern for the BJP.

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In a sense, this is not surprising. The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) India Employment Report, 2024 points out that about 83% of India’s unemployed workforce is under the age of 30. If we compare the present findings with the 2019 study, the proportion of respondents considering unemployment as the most important issue increased from 11% (in the 2019 post-poll survey) to 27% in the 2024 pre-poll survey. Similarly, price rise as the most important issue also witnessed a huge rise of 19% over 2019.

The rich were less likely to raise these issues in the latest study and rural respondents were more likely to mention unemployment and price rise as issues they were concerned with. The less educated were concerned more with price rise while the more educated and the younger voters were more concerned with unemployment.

It might be a matter of curiosity for many that neither corruption nor Ram Mandir were mentioned by voters as their most important concerns. Only 8% respondents mention these issues on their own. However, as we show elsewhere, respondents do have an awareness of both these issues but perhaps only when they are raised in the campaign.

In other words, voters have multiple concerns and some of these are at the top of their minds while others, if raised by the campaigns, too have a potential to affect the voters. How these concerns of the voters will translate into the campaign issues might determine their actual impact on the outcome?

Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Co-director CSDS-Lokniti and Nirmanyu Chauhan is a researcher at CSDS-Lokniti

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