What is the most important worry of citizens this election season? Unsurprisingly, it is jobs, says a new survey. At least 19% of the respondents say that unemployment is the single biggest problem in the country today. Development, growth and poverty is at 15%, of which poverty alone is stated by 11% of those surveyed.
The Politics and Society between Elections (2019) is a survey released by Azim Premji University (Bengaluru) and Lokniti (CSDS, Delhi) on public opinion relating to politics, society, and governance between elections across 12 states including Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, and the National Capital Region of Delhi.
Of the 12 states surveyed, six (Uttarakhand, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir) stated that unemployment was the most important issue. But, amongst these states, unemployment issue was most predominant in Uttarakhand where the figure was 17% points higher than the average. In J&K too, the biggest issues were unemployment and development, growth and poverty.
The report states that, “Unemployment as an issue finds more support when one moves from non-literate voters to highly educated voters. For the college-educated respondents, unemployment is an issue for 26% of the respondents. The corresponding figures for the matriculate, the primary educated and the non-literate were 19, 13 and 12% respectively. The biggest issue clearly differs across education.”
Interestingly among the non-literates, the predominant issue was of growth and development (18%), for primary educated respondents, it was physical infrastructure (19%) and for the matriculate and college educated voters it was unemployment (19% and 26% respectively).
As expected, unemployment is the biggest issue for younger voters, and it declines as they survey those above 36 years. Lack of jobs is a constant source of worry for those belonging to the age group of 18- 35 years and this issue takes a back seat for those respondents above the age of 36 years. The only significant difference with regard to gender on the most important issue facing India is in the case of unemployment where more men state it as an issue than women.
The report found across caste groups unemployment is the biggest government priority with the exception of Adivasis and Muslims. Where on one hand Adivasis state physical infrastructure as the biggest government responsibility (24 per cent), Muslims consider development, growth and poverty (18%) and followed by unemployment (17%). Punjab also has the highest proportion of respondents who feel that unemployment as the biggest issue facing India (25%).
While unemployment, price rise and law, governance and corruption are considered as government responsibility in the urban parts of the states, physical infrastructure, social infrastructure and development, growth and poverty find more support in rural areas.
Comparing it with 2014 Lokniti-CSDS poll survey, the report suggests that the top two dominant issues for the 12 states were price rise (20%) followed by law, governance and corruption (18%). This point towards the fact that the voters of the same states identify different issues in 2018. The issue of unemployment has seen a massive increase in support from 2014 to 2018. In 2014, only 6% of the voters stated this to be an important issue for them while voting, while in 2018, the figure increased three-fold to 19%.
From 20% in 2014 to 11% in 2018, the issue of price rise has seen a steep decline. Law, governance and corruption is another topic which has seen a similar decline from 18 to 13%.
In Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Nagaland, law, governance and corruption emerge as top issues. In Tamil Nadu, the lack of physical infrastructure also worries them. When we look at the issue of farmers and agriculture one notes a clear disappointment regarding farmers issues in Tamil Nadu and 4% of the farmers report this to be the issue of significance.
The only states which reported the same issue both during election and between elections are Tamil Nadu and Tripura. In Tamil Nadu the issue is physical infrastructure and in Tripura it is unemployment. All other states reported different issues during elections and after.
The report looks citizens’ trust in political institutions, ties across social groups, ease of public service access, citizen-state interfaces and governance, gender roles and relationships, nationalism and political identity, freedom of expression, and populism.