Despite Pro-Incumbency, Karnataka Heading for Hung House! Any Takers??

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Just as everybody was increasingly asking why there was a dearth of pre-polls for Karnataka, a string of them were published, almost simultaneously. In this post, we comparatively analyze 4 latest major tracker polls - Cfore, Karvy, Cvoter & VMR.  

Both the media and opinion polls had been trying for months to desperately paint the picture that the Siddaramiah-Congress government in Karnataka was facing massive anti-incumbency, while the Congress vehemently denied it.

Now a clutch of pre-polls vindicated the Congress assertion. A poll of poll as later seen in this analysis, project the Congress vote share above their 2013 performance, indicating that rather than anti-incumbency, the Congress is actually enjoying pro-incumbency. 

Secondly, when asked whether life improved under a Siddaramiah government, more than half the respondents nodded in agreement. If voters confirmed their  life improved during the last 5 years, where is the question of anti incumbency? 

Thirdly the personal stock of Siddaramiah within the state is flying mighty high. 46% of respondents not only rated him their best Chief Minister in recent decades but also by a similar percentage as their best preferred Chief Minister. There is practically little challenge to him either within the party or outside. He stands as the tallest politician in the state, without any challenge.

Everyone agrees that Siddaramiah succeeded in making the contest a Presidential race. If so, the numbers he poll should normally translate to those of the party he leads. If you look at the breakdown for the VMR numbers for the Most Preferred CM candidate, you find collectively Congress candidates commanding nearly 48% of votes, BJP 33% and JDS nearly 20%. This is very close to the Cfore overall party wise vote shares. 

The ELECTORAL EQUATIONS for Karnataka is fairly simple. The Congress crosses simple majority mark when their vote share hovers around 40%. Each 1% increase from there, increases their majority further. If Congress touches 46% as Cfore had predicted, it is clear what we would see is a Tsunami Wave. For the BJP, they need to first restrict the Congress below 40% and touch 37% to cross the simple majority mark. In the hypothetical case the Congress vote share crosses 40%, then the BJP need to proportionately increase their vote share past 37%.

Accordingly if Cfore indeed truly reflects the ground situation, then it is fairly clear that Karnataka is a NO Contest. Under the circumstances, it is very tempting for the BJP to use unethical Push Polls techniques  in an attempt to induce bandwagon, tactical voting & contagion effects. Political opinion polls are not always an accurate reflection of public opinion. They could be also an "Opinion Making" Polls as the JDS spokesperson on the IndiaToday panel summarily dismissed the Karvy Poll. The aim of these pre-polls would to narrow the gap so that both their cadres and voters remain enthuse to make the contest more competitive than it is really is on the ground.

The non-Cfore bunch of pre-polls apparently did not disappoint. They apparently scaled down Congress below 40%, while projecting BJP inching towards the 37% mark and promising shamelessly & openly that after Modi's campaign the BJP vote share would increase further. Though vote wise and seat wise, all these pre-polls look almost similar, a closer analysis indicates wide variations in their internals. For the purpose of analysis, we have limited it to solely vote shares as seen below.

Poll of Poll: Votes Shares by Region

Poll of Poll: Overall Vote Share

The Poll of Poll indicates the following

- Overall State, Hyderabad Karnataka & Bangalore: Congress most likely to lead
- Central Karnataka: BJP most likely to lead
-  Mumbai Karnataka & Coastal Karnataka: Neck to Neck
-  South Karnataka: Fuzzy but Congress likely to get better of JDS

There is a temptation to brand Cfore an outlier, particularly since Congress part funded them as their internal survey. However, not only their projected 46% vote share for Congress finds high correlation with Siddaramiah's personal ratings as confirmed by other pre-polls, the fact as seen below, this number is also in sync with their demonstrated vote share during the last 5 years as seen below:

The BJP faces a lot of constraints. They face a strong resistance at vote share band 33-34%. This is mainly due to their extremely narrow social base, which is made worse recently by erosion in their urban, Dalit & Lingayat segments. Even a 1% loss in each of these segments can bring BJP down to 30%. However, the non-Cfore pre-polls are all projecting BJP above this resistance bands with no explanation why this buoyancy is happening. As seen earlier, the bogey of anti incumbency against the Congress government was busted by their own data! Accentuating their challenges, is the fact that BJP has no presence in approximately 70 out of 224 seats, nearly one third the total assembly seats.

The JDS though depleted organizationally by defections, facing a funding crunch and loss of secular votes is putting up a plucky fight in South Karnataka. Vokkaligas are consolidating around JDS and this should erode some 1-2% vote share of both the BJP & Congress respectively. The JDS has no presence in nearly 140 seats, losing their deposits in 2013 in these seats. In 2014, the JDS was reduced to just 11% vote share. Consequently projections of pre-polls of JDS vote share hovering around 20% overall at the state level, i.e. nearly 100% increase viz-a-viz 2014 looks grossly unrealistic. 

A tacit understanding between BJP and JDS is expected but only on select seats, not across the board. The JDS is fighting basically an existential battle. So it is highly unlikely they would transfer a significant chunk of their vote to BJP overall if they are not assured that they would not gain from it. If they end up 20-30 seats, then Shah would immediately get into his act to wholesale buy up their MLAs. they need to cross 40 seats  to be safe and hence they would aim to increase their vote share as much as possible. Being a zero sum game, either BJP's or JDS' vote shares can get boosted, not both simultaneously as reflected in the non-Cfore pre polls. 

Most of these pre-polls on the face look as push polls. A push poll is an interactive marketing technique, most commonly employed during political campaigning, where the aim is to manipulate or alter prospective voters' views/beliefs under the guise of conducting or disseminating findings of an opinion poll. These are primarily to distribute propaganda rather than to understand the views and opinions of the public.
As we get closer to voting day expect more such polls, that project BJP decisively leading due to the "Modi Effect". Just as  the BJP carpet bombs their advertisements in each and every paper, they are surely cash rich to buy off most polling agencies. 

Would such tactics work? Sometimes it does. But not always. We have Vajpayee in 2004 where push polls faced their Waterloo. In the US, Trump overcome literally a battery of push polls to win the US Presidency. Ditto Brexit and attempts to marginalise Jeremy Corbyn. So let's wait for May 15th to find out...


Karvy & Cvoter Polls: Karnataka Stuck in a Time Warp! Nothing Changed Since 2013!! Read Here
Karnataka Polls 2018: Who among pollsters will end up the Winners & Losers? Read Here
KarnatakaElections: Would the spectre of a JDS-BJP Coalition Spook Off Voters??? Read Here

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