Voters of Gujarat count caste and religion of a candidate as the most important consideration in making their choice, while the candidate himself or herself is the least important, according to a study that presented respondents with five potential factors.

The study, by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), covered 270,000 respondents in 527 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country between January and April, midway through the term of the ongoing Lok Sabha. Describing it as India’s largest ever such survey, its purpose being to highlight voter priorities, the ADR released findings specific to Gujarat Monday.

“People in Gujarat gave most importance to the caste/religion of a candidate, followed by the PM or the CM candidate from the party of the candidate. The candidate was given the least importance,” notes the mid-term survey.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the caste/religion of a candidate got an average score of 8.27 from respondents, while the candidate got 4.58. Between these two extreme were three other considerations presented to voters — the candidate’s party, the party’s CM/PM candidate, and distribution of gifts.

Distribution of gifts was something that nearly 61% of the respondents in Gujarat were aware about, but only 29% knew that such distribution is illegal, said Major General Anil Verma (retired), ADR head, addressing mediapersons.

Although 73% of the respondents said people should not vote for criminal candidates, many were willing to vote for someone with a crime record— 80% because they felt the cases were not serious, 73% because the candidates were of their own caste or religion and 70% because they felt that the candidate had done “good work”.

Out of 150 Gujarat MLAs whose affidavits were analysed by ADR, 49 MLAs, or 31%, had declared criminal cases in 2012. Out of the 26 Lok Sabha MPs from Gujarat, 9 (35%) had declared serious criminal cases in 2014; out of Gujarat’s Rajya Sabha MPs, 22% had declared cases during polls at various stages.

The new ADR survey also asked voters to rate the issues that matter to them on a 1-10 scale. The top three among 10 issues were better employment opportunities, better public transport and empowerment of women. In rural Gujarat, voters rated “price realisation for farm products” as the second most important issue. Verma said the findings in Gujarat were similar to those pan-India.

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