Better employment opportunities along with improved healthcare and drinking water are among the top 10 governance issues for Indian voters in terms of priority. However, the voters are dissatisfied with the government’s performance and have given a Below Average rating on all the top 10 issues, reveals a survey conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). 

Among the five south Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, better employment opportunities was ranked in the top three priorities. 

The other issues that make up the top 10 list on all-India basis are drinking water, better roads, better public transport, availability of water for agriculture, agricultural loan availability, high price realisation for farm products, agricultural subsidy for seeds/ fertilisers, and better law and order/ policing. 

According to the survey, among the south Indian states, Telangana was on top when it came to better employment opportunities as a voter priority. Meanwhile, for Kerala, better hospitals/ primary healthcare centres emerged as the top priority for voters. Drinking water featured as the top priority for Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, among the larger states of India. When it came to better public transportation as a voter priority, Kerala featured on top not only among the southern states but the larger states in India as well. 

Better employment opportunities is the highest priority for voters, as per the report, but the government’s performance was rated below average. On a scale of 5, with 3 being the average score, the government scored 2.15.

All five southern states rank below average in most rankings in terms of performance on the basis of the three most important voter priorities for each constituency. 

ADR conducted the survey between October and December 2018 covering 534 Lok Sabha constituencies, in which 2,73,487 voters spread among various demographics participated. The three main objectives of this survey were to identify voters' priorities on specific governance issues, voters' ratings of the government's performance on those issues, and factors affecting voting behaviour.

"This indisputably is a result of prevailing governance deficit in these sectors that is causing deprivation to the average Indian voter besides also leading to the denial of their fundamental rights such as the right to live with human dignity as embodied in Article-21 of the Constitution," ADR said. 

Better employment opportunities as a voter priority (46.80%), better health care (34.60%) and drinking water (30.50%) are the top three voters' priorities at the all India level, followed by better roads (28.34%) and better public transport (27.35%).

ADR said it is a matter of serious concern that for none of the 31 listed voter priorities, the performance of the government was rated as average or above average.

The worst performance of the government, as rated by the voters, was on the issues of encroachment of public lands, lakes, and terrorism, training for jobs, strong defence/ military, eradication of corruption, lower food prices for consumers and mining/ quarrying.

Among the 32 states and UTs that were surveyed, in 29 of them, voters have given below average ratings to the government for its performance on all top three voters' priorities at the state level.

For both male and female voters, better employment opportunities and better healthcare were the top two priorities.

Voter behaviour

As to why voters choose certain candidates, the chief ministerial candidate was the most important factor while voting. This was followed by the candidate’s party, and then the candidate, the distribution of cash/liquor, followed by candidates with criminal antecedents.  

Amongst the least important factors were the candidate’s caste or religion and distribution of cash, liquor, gifts etc., which were ranked 4th and 5th, respectively.

The topmost reason for voters not voting in the last election was found to be missing names from the electoral roll followed by not being registered with the Election Commission of India. 

The findings note that almost 73% of the voters in India are aware that distribution of cash/ money / gifts ahead of elections is illegal. However, only about 35% of the people knew that they can get information about the criminal records of their candidates easily. 

Nearly 36% voters were willing to vote for a candidate with criminal records if the candidate has done good work in the past.

A significant percentage of voters (38.52%) also reported that they were facing problems without Aadhaar card.

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