Social media was not a key player in influencing Lok Sabha poll outcome; BJP would have won despite online campaign, reveals CSDS report

Contrary to reports of BJP using its strong social media presence to leverage its performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) has come out with a report which denies the role of social media as a key influencer of voting choices in the recently concluded polls.

The Lokniti-CSDS survey titled 'Political Behaviour and Social Media' released on Tuesday has found that the BJP’s vote share lead over the Congress among social media users was actually lower than in 2014.

According to The Hindu's report, the survey did establish a relationship between social media usage and BJP voters, showing that voters with high exposure to social media were most likely to have voted for the saffron party, with the ruling party’s vote share dropping among those with low or no exposure. It notes that 43 percent of those with high exposure voted for the BJP, dropping to 39 percent among those with moderate exposure, 37 percent of those with low exposure and 36 percent of those with no exposure.

However, it also states that given that voters with high exposure account for only a tenth of the electorate — while those with no exposure make up 64 percent — the study highlights that the BJP would have won the General Election even if social media was taken out of the equation.

 Social media was not a key player in influencing Lok Sabha poll outcome; BJP would have won despite online campaign, reveals CSDS report

Representational image. Reuters

In fact, BJP’s social media advantage over its principal rival, Congress, actually declined between 2014 and 2019. “When we compare the performance of the BJP and the Congress among Twitter and Facebook users in 2019 with their performance among the users of these platforms in 2014, we notice that the greatest gains made by the BJP were among those who did not use these two platforms at all compared to those who did,” it says, adding that among daily Facebook users, the vote share gap fell from 27 percentage points to 21 percentage points.

However, among those who don’t use Facebook at all, the BJP’s vote share advantage increased from 7 to 16 percentage points between 2014 and 2019. And similar results were found among Twitter users.

Therefore, the findings put across the point that traditional ground campaigning still dominates the outcome of Indian elections, despite some campaigns doing well online. For example, according to the report, the narrative of Congress' "Chowkidar chor hai" was more popular on social media compared to the BJP's "Main Bhi Chowkidar" campaign, but, it did not translate into electoral gains for the former, The Mint reported.

As per the survey, the nationalistic effect of the Balakot air strikes caught on with the masses, with 91 percent of users having high and moderate exposure to social media responding positively, while approximately 70 percent of the respondents with low or no exposure to social media being impacted by the event.

The survey also found that voters with high exposure were likely to believe that Muslims are highly nationalist compared to the ones with no exposure, according to The Hindu's report.

Interestingly, the survey also shows that there is a trust deficit among social media users regarding news propagated on these platforms. About a quarter of social media users said they did not trust news shared on social networks at all, while almost 30 percent categorised their level of trust as “not much”; only less than 20 percent of users said they had “a lot” of trust in information shared on social media, the report says.

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Updated Date: Jun 12, 2019 13:11:36 IST