Role of social media as influencer of voting choices overhyped: CSDS study

BJP’s vote share lead over Congress among users fell in comparison to 2014

Published - June 11, 2019 11:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational image.

Representational image.

The role of social media as a key influencer of voting choices in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections may have been exaggerated, according to a Lokniti-CSDS survey. It found that the BJP’s vote share lead over the Congress among social media users was actually lower than in 2014.

Survey data did establish a relationship between the social media usage and the BJP voters, showing that voters with a high exposure were most likely to have voted for it, with the ruling party’s vote share dropping among those with low or no exposure. Thus, 43% of those with high exposure voted for the BJP, dropping to 39% among those with moderate exposure, 37% of those with low exposure and 36% of those with no exposure.

However, given that voters with high exposure account for only a tenth of the electorate, while those with no exposure make up 64%, the study notes that the BJP would have won the election even if the social media was taken out of the equation.

It notes that the BJP’s social media advantage over its principal rival, the Congress, actually declined between 2014 and 2019. “When we compare the performance of the BJP and the Congress among Twitter and Facebook users in 2019 with their performance among the users of these platforms in 2014, we notice that the greatest gains made by the BJP were among those who did not use these two platforms at all compared to those who did,” it says, adding that among daily Facebook users, the vote share gap fell from 27 percentage points to 21 percentage points. However, among those who don’t use Facebook at all, the BJP’s vote share advantage increased from 7 to 16 percentage points between 2014 and 2019. Similar results were found among Twitter users.

The study on “Political Behaviour and Social Media” is based on nationwide surveys conducted by the Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies conducted in April-May 2019, and in the same months in 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Awareness of the slogans of both the major political parties, such as “Chowkidar chor hai” and “Main bhi chowkidar”, were above 80% among those with high social media usage, but only about 50% among those with no exposure. The survey found that voters with high exposure are more likely to believe that Muslims are highly nationalist compared to the ones with no exposure. However, it added that, “as the exposure to social media increases, the opinions of the users, whatever they might be, get strengthened”.

There is a trust deficit among the social media users regarding news propagated on these platforms. About a quarter of social media users said they did not trust news shared at all, while others almost 30% categorised their level of trust as “not much”. Less than 20% of users said they had “a lot” of trust in such news.

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