A Victory By Default for the Congress in Karnataka

Voters like to chase winners. Everybody wants their own MLA to belong to the winning party, for they perceive that the benefits to the constituency in that case are likely to be much greater. Some people vote by ideology. Others by caste. Many, however, just try to second-guess who the winner is, and vote for them.

A recent survey conducted by Daksh asked voters across Karnataka if they had voted for the winning candidate. A whopping 75% of the voters said they did so. In the 2008 Assembly Elections, the average vote share gained by a winning candidate was 43%. The graph here shows, constituency wise, the vote share of the winning party in the 2008 Elections and the number of survey respondents in the constituency who claimed to vote for the winner.


Source: The Daksh Survey of Karnataka MLAs and empoweringindia.org
Source: The Daksh Survey of Karnataka MLAs and empoweringindia.org

Notice how in most constituencies, the proportion of survey respondents who have said they’ve voted for the winner is far higher than the vote share the winning candidate got in the elections. This can mean one of two things. One possibility is that the sample that Daksh used for their survey was heavily biased. However, given that the result is consistent across all constituencies, it is unlikely that they would have got a biased sample in all constituencies. The other possibility is that everybody likes to be associated with the winner.

In most elections, it is difficult to gauge who “everyone else” is voting for. People sometimes rely on opinion or exit polls, but they are usually based on small samples. This election is different. It was immediately preceded by elections to 200 odd urban local bodies all over Karnataka. All towns and cities in Karnataka went to the polls only a month or two back. While there are some cities where the local bodies have been hung, if you look across the state, the verdict is clear. And people are aware of that verdict.

Given the Congress’s strong performance in the recent urban local body elections, the marginal voter is likely to swing to the Congress. Media reports indicate that all is not well with the party and there is considerable bickering for tickets. However, the weight of the marginal votes is going to be enough to push the Congress comfortably over the line. The bickering for tickets can be looked at in another way – Congressmen know that their party is going to form the government, and are extra keen on riding a winning horse.

One thought on “A Victory By Default for the Congress in Karnataka”

  1. Two different questions here: Does a voter (or at least a marginal voter) want to vote for the winner, or does the voter want to be seen as having voted the winner in? The Daksh survey gives positive evidence on the latter, and doesn’t really tell us anything about the former.

    While I agree with the logic that marginal voters want to vote for likely winners, and agree that the Congress might sweep in thanks to its local elections performance, I don’t see empirical evidence to make that case here.

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