Strategic voters may turn tables

'Political parties rarely tap into utilitarian and rational-choice voters'

With elections on the horizon, politicians and political parties are seen campaigning, appealing to various sections of voters in the length and breadth of their constituencies. 

While politicians calculate the number of votes they might secure based on the populations of a castes, religions and the traditional dominance of a particular party in a region, political scientists have different yardsticks to assess the kinds of voters in a constituency, and their possible impact in the outcome of an election.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Muzaffar Assadi, professor of Political Science, University of Mysore described the types of voters in the constituency, as strategic voters, rational-choice voters and utilitarian voters, respectively. 

Strategic voters constitute about 13-20 per cent of the electorate in Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha constituency. These voters vote keeping in mind the outcome of elections in the country, on whether a voted government would serve their interest best.

Quoting an example, he said that voters of the Muslim community in the region are strategic voters. 

“Despite the Congress manifesto having nothing new for them, they are most likely to vote for the Congress. While corruption is a major political issue this election, for minorities, the primary issue is security and an identity for the community,” he said.

However, with Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) extending support to JD(S) in the constituency, a share of strategic votes of Muslim community might also split.

Political turmoil

Apart from Muslim community, the Lingayat community too might vote strategically in favour of BJP, despite the recent political turmoil experienced by BJP in the State, which would increase the number of strategic voters.

Rational-choice  voters consist of middle class voters, who take into account the accessibility of a candidate, his or her antecedents and developmental works taken up by a candidate before exercising their franchise. 

The percentage of these voters might be around 15 per cent in the constituency, although not all individuals who can be considered as rational-choice voters exercise their franchise, Assadi said.

Another major division of voters are called as utilitarian voters, who vote considering ‘maximum benefits for maximum people’. 

With corruption being taken up as a national issue by all political parties, these voters might tend to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party, whose leaders were among the first political factions to take up the corruption issue. “These voters, who generally vote either for the Congress and BJP, might vote for AAP this election,” he said. However, their number is between 5 to 10 per cent.

“While political parties woo ‘strategic voters’ on the basis of their caste and religious identities, little effort is being made to convince rational choice or utilitarian voters,” he said.

Community votes

The opinions of community leaders, such as seers of prominent mutts of the region, will also affect the number of votes polled for a party. 

Similar opinion leaders exist in marginal tribal communities existing in the constituency. “In such tribal hamlets, votes are polled based on the instructions by the chief of the hamlet,” he said.

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