Voting Behaviour: Features, Determinants of Voting Behaviour in India

By Shivank Goel|Updated : October 17th, 2022

Voting behaviour or electoral behaviour denotes citizens' engagement and procrastination toward participation in elections for local, regional, or national government members.

The study or analysis of electoral behaviour's determinants is vital to inspire and influence voters to exercise their right to vote in favour or against a specific candidate. These determinants of voting behaviour include factors like gender, race, monetary influence, the personality of a leader, and a few more.

UPSC aspirants should have detailed knowledge about voting behaviour in India as it is one of the essential topics from the exam perspective. For detailed notes on veto power, aspirants can download the PDF provided below.

Table of Content

What is Voting Behaviour?

The aspects and reasons that impact the voting patterns of voters are known as electoral behaviour or voting behaviour. It is also referred to as voters' engagement and procrastination toward participation in elections.

Political science and psychological knowledge are required to decode voting behaviour, resulting in the development of the discipline of political psychology, including electoral psychology.

Voting Behaviour in India PDF

Study of voting behaviour: The study of electoral behaviour, according to sociologist Gordon Marshall, indeed focuses on the factors of why individuals choose to vote in public elections. However, it also determines how they arrive at the judgments they make.

"Psephology" is a scientific study that deals with electoral or voting behaviour. Voting has been documented since the Greek city-states of ancient antiquity. Psephology, the current term for the study of voting behaviour, originates from the classical Greek 'Presphos,' a piece of pottery on which sure votes, primarily concerning the expulsion of persons deemed hazardous to the state, were engraved.

Voting Behaviour in India

India is the world's largest democracy, so it is important to study the determinants of the voting behaviour of such a diverse population. In Indian elections, all people above the age of 18 have the right to vote. Even though over half of them are illiterates, they have historically acted sensibly and maturely when electing their officials. They have already participated in multiple Lok Sabha elections, state legislative assemblies, and many bi-elections.

Some election studies were carried out during India's first national elections in 1952. These investigations lack methodological rigour and complexity at first. The growing use of the survey method and observation methodology, on the other hand, has enhanced the quality of election research in India. Studies of voting behaviour in India are influenced mainly by Western electoral behaviour research, notably in the United States, Colombia, and Michigan.

Determinants of Voting Behaviour

The nature and composition of Indian society are immensely diverse. As a result, voting behaviour in India is determined or impacted by various factors. These elements are broadly classified into socioeconomic factors and political considerations. They also help in evaluating the changing pattern of voting behaviour in India. They are described in further detail below:

Religion:

Religion is an important determinant of voting behaviour in India. Here, many political parties have been created based on religion. Political parties engage in community propaganda and exploit citizens' religious sensitivities. The emergence of many community parties has added to religion's politicisation. Even though India is a secular country, no political party dismisses the role of religion in electoral politics.

During elections, several political parties plead for votes in the name of faith. They raise the phrase "Religion is in peril" and incite people's religious sensibilities. When allocating party tickets, the religion of the voters and candidates is taken into account. It is common for citizens to vote for candidates of their faith since they are motivated by religious feelings.

Language:

India is multilingual, and linguistic considerations influence people's voting behaviour. Political parties use people's linguistic sentiments during elections to control their voting decisions. The reorganisation of states (in 1956 and afterwards) based on language clearly illustrates the importance of language in Indian politics.

There have been issues in states, like the status of one specific language in that state or the quality of the status of a state's language. Because individuals have an emotional relationship with their languages, they are quickly swayed anytime a language-related issue arises.

Caste:

In India, caste remains to be a decisive factor affecting voting behaviour. It has deep societal origins and is a vital foundation for social connections at all levels. Despite enacting many regulations that ban discrimination and action based on caste, caste remains a decisive factor in political behaviour. Caste politicisation and casteism in politics are well-known realities of the Indian political system.

Political parties in India, without exception, usually include the caste element while developing policies, programmes, and electoral strategies. In addition, several political parties frequently pay special attention to the candidate's caste when nominating them and voters while exercising their right to vote. This is how caste is an important determinant of voting behaviour in India.

Leader's Personality:

It is one of the essential determinants that impact voting behaviour in Indian society. It refers to the outstanding quality of a component that transcends group aspects and becomes a source of attraction and adoration for vast numbers of individuals. Many individuals are afraid of speaking out against the wishes of an influential leader because they do not dare to do so.

Fortunately, in India, the positive component of charm played a role throughout the election. For instance, the excelling impressions of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Narendra Modi inspired voters to vote for their respective parties.

Governing Party's Performance:

On election evening, every political party issues its election declarations, including the promises made to the citizens or voters. The electorate evaluates the ruling party's performance based on its election promises. Once elected, it is expected to keep the commitments expressed in the manifesto.

Excellent or terrible performance of the ruling party, based only on election promises made and pledges fulfilled, significantly impacts the people's voting behaviour.

For instance, In 1989, Congress won a landslide majority in the 1984 elections but was unable to gain even a simple majority in the 1989 elections owing to its failure to perform successfully.

Party's Identification and Doctrine:

Personal and emotional attachments to political parties influence electoral behaviour in India. People who identify with a specific party will always vote for that party, regardless of its errors and omissions.

Additionally, the political philosophy proclaimed by a political party influences voter decision-making and directly impacts voting behaviour. For example, some people in society adhere to ideas such as communalism, capitalism, democracy, secularism, decentralisation, and so on. Such people back the candidates by the parties that espouse their views and vote for them.

Monetary Influence:

The relevance of money in understanding voting behaviour cannot be overstated. Despite limits on election spending, millions of rupees are spent on elections. Voters want cash or commodities in exchange for their votes.

Significance of Studying Voting Behaviour

Understanding or analysing voter behaviour can shed light on how and why decisions are made by the electorate. However, the study of voting behaviour is significant for several reasons, such as:

  • First, it aids in understanding the process of political socialisation.
  • Second, it aids in analysing the internalisation of democracy as a value among elites and the general public.
  • Third, it emphasises the true significance of the innovative ballot box.
  • Fourth, it sheds information on how many electoral politics adhere to or depart from the past.
  • Fourth, it aids in determining if it is modern or primitive in the context of political growth.
  • Fourth, the study of voting behaviour helps to figure out the upfront relation of individual voters to the official government.
  • Finally, it acts as an instance of decision-making and an approach to legitimising democratic rule.

Voting Behaviour UPSC

Voting behaviour or electoral behaviour denotes citizens' engagement and procrastination toward participation in elections for local, regional, or national government members. It is an essential topic in the political subject. Aspirants can find the details about voting behaviour in India UPSC in Indian polity books. They need to focus on the topic details per the UPSC syllabus and keep an account related to current affairs for excellent preparation.

Check out some sample questions on voting behaviour UPSC based on the previous year's paper analysis.

Question: What is the study of voting behaviour called?

  1. Psephology
  2. Geology
  3. Politology
  4. Sociology

Answer: Option A.

Question: Which of the following is a determinant of voting behaviour in India?

  1. Party's Identification
  2. Caste
  3. Religion
  4. All of the above

Answer: Option D.

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FAQs on Voting Behaviour

  • Analysing and comprehending the aspects and reasons that impact the voting patterns of voters are known as electoral behaviour or voting behaviour. The study of electoral behaviour, according to sociologist Gordon Marshall, indeed focuses on the factors of why individuals choose to vote in public elections. However, it also determines how they arrive at the judgments they make.

  • The nature and composition of Indian society are immensely diverse. As a result, voting behaviour in India is determined or impacted by various factors. It includes region, religion, language, and many other determinants.

  • This voting behaviour can be defined as the voting pattern of the voter as a thinking individual who can form an opinion on political topics and vote appropriately. Voting or electoral behaviour is also referred to as voters’ engagement and procrastination toward participation in elections.

  • A branch of political science called psephology examines elections and polls and does statistical analyses of them. Psephologists are individuals who practice psephology. Psephology, the current term for the study of voting behaviour, originates from the classical Greek 'Presphos.’

  • Elements or factors that impact the voting behaviour of citizens are known as determinants of Voting Behaviour. These elements are broadly classified into socioeconomic factors and political considerations.

    Here are some determinants of voting behaviour:

    • Religion
    • Caste
    • Language
    • Leader’s Personality
    • Governing party's performance
    • Party’s Identification and Doctrine
    • Monetary Influence
  • Understanding or analysing voter behaviour can give light on how and why the electorate makes decisions. However, studying voting behaviour is important for various reasons. For instance, 

    it assists in comprehending the process of political socialisation and it facilitates in the analysis of elites' and the general public's internalisation of democracy as a value.

  • Voting behaviour is an important topic in UPSC Indian Polity Subject. Aspirants may learn more about it in Indian political books for  Voting Behaviour UPSC notes. For outstanding preparation, they must concentrate on the contents of this issue as prescribed by the curriculum and keep a current events account.

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