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Election campaigns now appear to have reached new lows in a number of countries as hostile populist rhetoric becomes more prevalent. The rise of social media, the uses and abuses of big data, and the introduction of techniques developed in non-democratic contexts has been described as characterizing the 4th era of political communication, that emerged in the first decade of this century (Semetko & Tworzecki 2017). Rising electoral volatility was a trend in Europe when the 4th era arrived and recent elections provide further evidence of this trend. Younger voters are more likely to be volatile voters – that is to switch to another party -- than older voters (Mellon et al. 2017). Younger citizens are also more active on social media than older citizens. India is no exception to these global trends. Potential for volatility was evident in our 2014 surveys in Delhi and Bengaluru with a quarter of respondents claiming to have decided only in the last week or days before voting.
Longstanding explanations for vote choice in India include caste and religion (Chandra 2004, 2009; Jaffrelot 2010) and poverty (Thatchil 2014). Our model of vote choice in the 2014 national election contest in Delhi, for each of the three parties -- AAP, BJP, INC -- found that several campaign variables were significant predictors of the propensity to vote for each party (PTV) at wave 2, with PTV at wave 1 held constant (Semetko, Kumar, Neyazi, Mellon 2016). PTV has been used in European and other election studies; it captures utilities that can be used for scenarios (van der Eijk et al. 2006). Campaign variables include changes in evaluations of party leaders (Aarts, Blais & Schmitt 2011; Semetko, Kumar, Mellon, Dutta, Ray, Neyazi, 2018), and changes in the salience of issues (Norris, Curtice, Sanders, Scammell, Semetko 1999), as well as voter demographics such as being Muslim, caste, and education level, and one’s reported attention to campaign information. Attention has been found to be a stronger measure and less prone to error than media exposure measures (Dilliplane, Goldman, and Mutz, 2012).
We utilize a three-wave panel in Delhi that has advantages over a two-wave panel when discussing causality (Vaisey & Miles 2014), and a two-wave panel in Bengaluru in 2019, to replicate and extend our research. We compare the models with data from these panel studies including demographics, information, changing assessments of issues and party leaders, and assessments of government performance, in predicting party support in 2019, and discuss similarities and differences across these two major urban sites in India and historically from 2014.
Aarts, Kees, Blais, Andre, and Schmitt, Hermann. 2011 Political Leaders and Democratic Elections. Oxford: OUP.
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.
Jaffrelot, Christophe 2010. Religion, Caste and Politics in India. New Delhi: Primus Books.
Dilliplane, S. Goldman, S. and Mutz, D. 2012. Televised Exposure to Politics: New Measures for a Fragmented Media Environment. American Journal of Political Science, 57 (1): 236-248.
Mellon, J., Evans, G., Fieldhouse, E. A., Green, J., Prosser, C. 2017. Brexit or Corbyn? Campaign and Inter-Election Vote Switching in the 2017 UK General Election (November 17, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3073203
Norris, P., Curtice, J., Sanders, D. Scammell, M. and Semetko, H.A. 1999. On Message: Communicating the Campaign. London: Sage.
Semetko, Holli A. and Hubert Tworzecki. 2017. “Campaign Strategies, Media and Voters: The Fourth Era of Political Communication.” In Justin Fisher, Edward Fieldhouse, Mark N. Franklin, Rachel Gibson, Christopher Wlezien, and Marta Cantijoch [eds]. The Routledge Handbook of Public Opinion and Voting Behaviour. London, UK: Routledge, pp. 293-304.
Semetko, Holli A., Anup Kumar, Taberez Neyazi, Jon Mellon. 2016. “Media Attention and Voting for Old vs. New Parties.” Paper presented at the American Political Science Association , Philadelphia.
Semetko, Holli A., Anup Kumar, Jonathan Mellon, Mohan Dutta, Subhasish Ray, Taberez Neyazi, 2018. “Campaigning and Party Support in India: Evidence from National and Subnational Elections.” Paper presented at the American Political Science Association, Boston.
Thachil, Tariq. 2014. Elite Parties and Poor Voters: Theory and Evidence from India American Political Science Review 108 (2), 454-477.
Vaisey, S. & Miles, A. 2014. What you can – and can’t—do with 3 wave panel data. Working paper. http://www.stephenvaisey.com/documents/vaisey_miles_smr.pdf