Economic Stress Wields Influence on Voter Sentiment Ahead of 2024 Indian General Election

As India approaches its 2024 general elections, issues of unemployment and rising prices are casting a long shadow over the electorate’s concerns, as revealed by a comprehensive pre-poll survey conducted by CSDS-Lokniti. These twin concerns have emerged as the predominant anxieties for nearly half the voting population, providing a substantial insight into the public mood in what marks the first installment of a series analyzing pre-election sentiments.

According to the CSDS-Lokniti survey, a distinct majority of 62% of respondents, particularly from urban areas, acknowledge that securing employment has turned more challenging, with 65% of city-dwellers affirming this view. In contrast, 62% in villages and 59% in smaller towns expressed similar concerns. The gender divide also underscored this sentiment, with 65% of men and 59% of women recognizing the growing difficulty in finding jobs. A mere 12% of those surveyed believed that job prospects had improved.

Examining the data along religious and caste lines, a formidable 67% of Muslim participants reported hardships in job acquisition. This percentage was closely rivaled by Hindus from Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes, each at 63%, and Scheduled Tribes at 59%. Interestingly, Hindu upper castes were the most optimistic, albeit relatively small in proportion, with 17% citing that job procurement had become easier, even though 57% from the same group felt it had indeed become harder.

Mirroring the discontent with unemployment, an overwhelming 71% of the surveyed population pointed to the troubling increase in prices. These concerns were further amplified among the economically disadvantaged (76%) and marginalized religious and social groups – Muslims (76%) and Scheduled Castes (75%).

While these figures present a bleak picture of voter attitudes towards the economy, the survey also disclosed a divided view on whom to hold accountable for the paucity of job opportunities, with 17% pointing fingers at state governments, 21% at the central government, and a substantial 57% placing the blame equally on both. As for price escalation, 26% held the Centre principally responsible, 12% the states, and a predominant 56% censured both.

In terms of personal economic progression, about 48% of the surveyed voters felt that their quality of life had improved somewhat or significantly over the past five years. Contrastingly, 35% experienced a decline, while 14% saw no change. Only a fraction, 22%, stated that their household income was sufficient to meet their needs and allow for savings. In contrast, larger segments were just getting by (36%), facing some degree of fiscal strain (23%), or unable to fulfill their basic needs (12%).

Regarding the pervasiveness of corruption, 55% felt it had escalated, compared to 40% who felt similarly in the 2019 Lokniti pre-poll survey. The proportion of those who sensed a decrease in corruption shrunk to 19% from the 37% previously. Accountability for corruption was more commonly attributed to the Centre (25%) than to State governments (16%), with a majority of 56% indicting both.

Despite these widespread apprehensions over employment and inflation, the survey illuminated a silver lining, showing that nearly half of participants judged the development in the last five years to be inclusive—a sentiment that will no doubt weigh into the discourse as the nation draws closer to election day.