What new data shows on the political choices of India’s internet users

Earlier, I looked at a great new study by political scientists Rahul Verma and Shreyas Sardesai on the link between media exposure and political choice. They found that people who are more exposed to the media are more likely to vote BJP, while those who are less exposed to the media are more often INC voters. But, as the piece makes clear, this implies correlation and not causality, and has more to do with the demographic characteristics of the BJP’s and INC’s traditional votebanks. (Their study is part of the Economic and Political Weekly’s special issue on the Lok Sabha elections, worth reading in full here.)

So we know that people with more media exposure are more likely to vote BJP, but does the type of media matter? For this, I looked at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies’ (CSDS) National Election Study data which they kindly shared with me, as well as Mr. Verma and Mr. Sardesai’s findings.

First off, it’s worth restating that the internet remains far less relevant to the Indian political story than TV and newspapers. In fact nearly double as many people get their news from radio as do from the internet. (The internet is the green dot on the bottom right of the chart – it only showed up as a valid source of news in this election.)

Next, it’s also worth restating that the BJP was popular across classes of people, which translates to all types of media consumers. Even among low consumers of news – traditionally the INC’s votebank – support for the BJP gradually grew, to the point that by the fourth round of the NES, conducted just after the election, the BJP was more popular than the INC in this segment too.

Within this broad story, there are smaller, interesting trends.

Throughout this election campaign, the BJP was consistently more popular among internet users than among newspaper readers or TV watchers, as this graph charting the BJP’s lead over the INC among different types of media consumers shows. Just after the election in May 2014, the BJP led the INC by 26 percentage points among internet users – as opposed to 11.8 percentage points on the ground.

Similarly, Narendra Modi was consistently more popular than Rahul Gandhi among internet users than among those who read newspapers or watched TV.

So yes, it would appear that the internet is more pro-BJP than the offline world. This probably means that the richest 5% of India, which is also more urban and more upper caste, is indeed more pro-BJP than the rest of the country. The next time you see an online poll, you will know at the least which direction it is skewed in.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-datadelve/article6468108.ece