This is the largest ever survey in India with over 250,000 respondents in 525 constituencies of the Lok Sabha. It is perhaps the largest survey ever done in the world in one country. The purpose of the survey, done ahead of Lok Sabha 2014, is not to predict the poll outcome. The purpose is three fold:
Voter priorities. To find out what are voter priorities in terms of governance issues like water, electricity, roads, food, education and health? A list of 30 items was given to voters and they were asked to say whether a particular issue was High, Medium, or Low. This list was comprehensive as less than 5% said that there were “other issues” beyond the list.
Rating of MPs. On each of the governance issues above the voters were asked to rate the performance of MPs as good, Average or Bad.
Role of caste, religion, crime and money power in elections.
But the larger purpose is to highlight voter priorities so that elections in future are fought on voter issues, and more importantly, the governance agenda of future Governments reflects voter priorities. ADR expects that this is a long term effort and this survey will have to be repeated several times before the larger goal is achieved.
Methodology and accuracy
At the outset it is important to note that the survey is entirely about voter perceptions. Whether the voter's perception is right or wrong is immaterial for our purposes. For instance in urban areas, some group may perceive garbage clearance was very important while another may not think so. 'Scientifically' one may say that garbage causes health hazards, but we present the data as voters tell it, and not based on what 'ought' to be done. The reason is that a voter votes based on his/her own perception, and not on what may be 'scientifically' known to be true or false. There was no attempt to prompt or influence responses during the survey. At the same time, there are socially accepted 'preferred' answers. For instance asking “will you vote for someone with a serious criminal record?” is of no use. The questionnaire was suitably designed to take care of these issues.
Other opinion poll surveys do less than 25,000 responses. From a sample size point of view, this survey is 10 times larger than any survey ever done. The primary reason to conduct such an exercise on such a magnitude was to collect the performance data of all the MPs as perceived by the voters of their constituencies. Due to limitations of time, budget and logistics, we were able to do around 525 of the 543 MP constituencies. We did around 500 respondents in each constituency. The respondents were randomly selected to represent various segments of the population like rural-urban, gender, caste, religion, and income classes. Every care was taken to make the samples fully representative of the population. The accuracy of the survey is 5%, i.e., the true values are within 5% of the survey predictions.
The survey was done in the months of December, '13, January and February, '14. While a professional agency was hired to do it, ADR-Daksh designed the questionnaire, and also made random checks to ensure that the survey was proceeding smoothly. Given the size of the survey, the time and budget limitations, we wanted to keep the questionnaire short and simple. It collected the following information:
- Demographic data. Name, gender, caste/religion, age, type of assets owned (to get wealth ranking information
- What are the important factors for voting: Candidate, Political Party, Candidate caste/religion, Party's PM Candidate, Distribution of 'gifts'
- 'Knowledge' of voter regarding crime and money in elections. Specifically whether they know of distribution of such gifts and whether they know of criminal record of candidates.
- The 30 Issues on Governance and rating of MPs on each issue. These included agriculture, electricity for agriculture and domestic use, farm prices, consumer prices, irrigation, subsidy for seed and fertilizers, Accessibility and Trustworthiness of MP, terrorism, employment, health care, Law and Order, public transport, roads, education, drinking water, empowerment and security of Women, eradication of Corruption, reservation, Strong Defense/Military, subsidized food distribution (PDS), training for jobs, garbage clearance, encroachment of public land / lakes, facility for pedestrians and cyclists on roads, Traffic congestion, environment and “others”. As mentioned earlier, “others” was included in case something important was missed in the list. Less than 5% respondents came up with any other issue.
Outcomes of the survey
Some of the significant outputs of the survey will be:
- Rating of all MPs on a 10 point scale. This will be further refined state wise and political party wise.
- Rating of Ministers. This will also include things like how the Health Minister is rated on health from his/her constituency etc.
- What are voters' top and bottom priorities on a 10 point scale? This will be further refined in terms of each State, and in terms of demographics: rural-urban, gender, caste, income, age, wealth. For instance, what are the priorities of SC women with low income?
- Gaps in MPs' performance. If voters give high priority to an issue and the MP has a low performance on that issue, this will be highlighted. Of the nearly 50% responses already in, on no governance issue has the people's expectation been met. In other words, the score for the priority or importance on each of the 30 governance issues has been always higher than the score for the performance.
- Scores of factors influencing voters. This includes caste, religion, choice of candidate versus choice of party, the PM candidate if any, role of money in elections.
- Party wise analysis of performance. This will be towards the end of the campaign and also provide scores of political parties on various governance issues and of overall performance.
- On All India basis, we will also present the budget-survey analysis. This means that we look at the top priorities and compare them with the Government budget allocations. Preliminary analysis indicates that there is a gap between people's priorities and budget allocations. This will be towards the end of the campaign.