Social media today is the most popular and fastest medium of communication. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections BJP and then its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi used the medium to propagate its ideology and highlight the corruption scandals of UPA 2. At that time, other leaders and parties had not realized its importance giving Modi a free run in social media platforms. In-fact Rahul Gandhi joined twitter a year later in April 2015.

The 2014 elections in many ways is called India’s first social media elections. According to BJP IT Cell Head Arvind Gupta, it impacted results of 30 to 40 percent of the seats. Congress gearing up its social media infrastructure with IT cell, volunteers, verified accounts, influencers and even conservative parties like BSP registered its presence on the medium. The Congress versus BJP battle in 2019 was expected to be played out on social media. The increase in number of smartphones and cheaper data plans by Jio have helped in increased usage of social media platforms.

CSDS-Lokniti along with Konrad Adenauer Stiftunghave come out with a report analyzing the role of social media in shaping political preferencesand attitudes in 2019 Lok Sabha elections.The report has analyzed five social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube.

To answer the question ‘Did social media really influence the results of Lok Sabha elections?’, we have to analyze the following factors:

  1. How many people are on social media?

As per the report, Whatsapp is the most popular social media platform with 31% of population using it (daily / weekly / monthly / rarely combined basis). YouTube and Facebook are used by 27%-28% of population, whereas Twitter is used by just 7% of population.

College and up to matric educated people account for 90% of users across most social media platforms. Youth (18-35 years) account for 70%-75% of users. Urban users account for 45%-55% of Top 3 platforms (FB, WhatsApp &Youtube), semi-urban 30%-40% while rural 20%-25%. While 60%-70% of users are men, 30%-40% users across platforms are women.

  1. How many people use social media regularly?

Only 10% of population has high exposure to social media. 36% of the population has some sort of exposure to social media (high + moderate + low), implying majority 64% have no exposure. This could lead us to believe that social media didn’t play such a key role.

Caste wise break-up of daily / weekly users suggest that upper caste dominate the usage pattern across all platforms. The surprise package is the Muslim community which is ahead of OBCs in usage across platforms. This despite the fact that muslims account for about one-third of OBC population in India.

  1. What is the turnout of these groups?

The number of people who have no exposure to social media outnumbers those who are exposed to social media (1.75 times). If the turnout of people who have some sort of exposure is higher, then this could be compensated for. However, there is no data on caste wise or age wise turnout.

It is believed that youth and minorities generally come out in larger numbers to vote. For the first time ever, women who have comparatively lesser social media exposure than men, recorded same turnout as men.

  1. How did the various groups vote?

While support for BJP was higher than Congress across all categories of users, daily users and weekly users were more likely to vote for BJP than Congress. The lead among daily and weekly users for BJP over Congress is 21% and 19% on Facebook and 26% and 19% on Twitter.

 

 

NDA enjoyed highest lead versus UPA among high exposure upper caste members (+47%) and lowest among high exposure SCs. On the other hand UPA lead was highest among no exposure Muslims (+36%).

BJP led NDA received more support from high exposure to social media individuals across caste / community groups except in the case of OBCs and Others. Congress led UPA on the other hand received more support from high exposure to social media individuals belonging to OBCs and SCs. Muslims and Others having no exposure to social media are likely to vote more for UPA compared to NDA.

Conclusion

Social media played a key role in Lok Sabha elections 2019. Key findings listed below:

  • 36% people have exposure to social media platforms.
  • High and moderate exposure individuals have more likely voted for the BJP than the Congress.
  • BJP enjoys twice the support for Congress among high / moderate exposure individuals.
  • Across caste / community groups, BJP got higher support from high and moderate exposure to social media individuals.

  • This also shows that BJP’s social media team managed its handles better than opposition and was able to push through its message and content in a better fashion. The lakhs of whatsapp groups it created helped the party a lot in these elections.

With the increase in internet penetration, social media is likely to play an even bigger role in upcoming state and next Lok Sabha elections. Opposition parties have to pull up their socks and beef up their social media teams and campaigns to take on the BJP.

Image courtesy: blogherald

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