Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Populist Appeals and Party Support in Bihar

Sat, August 31, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton, Gunston East


Bihar’s 2015 Assembly election delivered the first defeat to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the party’s landslide election in the 2014 Lok Sabha. We utilize on our two-wave pre-post election panel study in Bihar in 2019, [n=2,400] to identify the importance of information, issues, party leaders and perceptions of party alliances, in comparison with caste and religion and other demographic variables, in predicting party support in the Lok Sabha election. We first compare key variables in the 2019 model with our 2015 model of party support to discuss stability and change in one of India’s poorest states (Kumar et al. 2018).

We conducted a large cross-sectional survey fielded during the 2015 election campaign and developed a model predicting party support for each of the four large political parties that captured the majority of votes in the 2015 election in Bihar. Based on a review of the literature, issue salience including communalism and caste-ism which, among other issues, could be said to be “owned” by different opposing parties (Walgrave, Tresch & Lefevere 2015), evaluations of government performance (Nooruddin & Chhibber 2007), evaluations of political leaders (Bean & Mughan 1989; Andersen & Evans 2003; Aarts, Blais & Schmitt 2011; Stevens, Karp & Hodgson 2011), attention to media and political advertising such as posters or handbills (Neyazi, Kumar & Semetko 2016), along with demographic variables including caste, religion, gender among others (Chandra 2004, 2009; Heath 2005; Jaffrelot 2010), are in the model. The findings of that study, based on 2015 data, support our hypotheses on the value of different types of populist appeals for party support, and the importance of popular leaders in predicting party support. We are interested in how the emergence of low cost smartphones and data plans after the 2015 Bihar election has impacted the use of social and mobile media in 2019. Our study will help to explain how technological development may have influenced the dynamics of populist appeals and voting behavior in the 2019 election in Bihar, which already in 2018 had agreed upon electoral alliances.


Aarts, Kees, Blais, Andre, and Schmitt, Hermann. 2011 Political Leaders and Democratic Elections. Oxford: OUP.

Andersen, Robert and Evans, Geoffrey. 2003. Who Blairs wins? Leadership and voting in the 2001 election. British Elections & Parties Review 13(1), 229-247.

Bean, Clive and Anthony Mughan. 1989. “Leadership Effects in Parliamentary Elections in Australia and Britain.” American Political Science Review 83: 1165–79.

Chandra, Kanchan. 2004. Why Ethnic Parties Succeed: Patronage and Ethnic Headcounts in India. Cambridge, UK & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Chandra, Kanchan. 2009. “Why voters in patronage democracies split their tickets: Strategic voting for ethnic parties.” Electoral Studies, 28: 21-32.

Heath, Oliver. 2005. Party systems, political cleavages and electoral volatility in India: A state-wise analysis, 1998–1999. Electoral Studies, 24(2), 177-99.

Jaffrelot, Christophe 2010. Religion, Caste and Politics in India. New Delhi: Primus Books.

Kumar, Anup. Neyazi, Taberez A., Semetko, Holli A., Dutta, Mohan., Nakamizo, Kayuza. (2018) Parties, Leader& Issues in Bihar 2015. Paper presented at a panel on “New insights into electoral patterns in India using subnational elections” at the Midwest Political Science Association meetings, Chicago, April 5-8.

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. and Mary Stegmaier. 2000. “Economic Determinants of Electoral Outcomes,” Annual Review of Political Science 3: 183–219.

Nooruddin, Irfan and Chhibber, Pradeep. 2007. Unstable politics, fiscal space and electoral volatility in the Indian states. Comparative Political Studies 41 (8), 1069-1091.

Neyazi, Taberez A. , Kumar, Anup & Semetko, Holli A. 2016. Campaigns, Digital Media, and Mobilization in India. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 21(3), 398-416.

Stevens, Daniel, Jeffrey A. Karp & Robert Hodgson (2011) Party Leaders as Movers and Shakers in British Campaigns? Results from the 2010 Election, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 21:2, 125-145, DOI: 10.1080/17457289.2011.562613

Walgrave, Steffan, Anke Tresch & Jonas Lefevere. 2015. The Conceptualisation and Measurement of Issue Ownership, West European Politics, 38:4, 778-796, DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2015.1039381