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India@75 survey: Political divide rising, creating strain in relationships

Political polarization is on the rise, and the stronger one is in their support for a political party, the more likely they are to see strain in their personal relationships, the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey has found

A file photo from the aftermath of the communal clash in Muzaffarnagar.   (Photo: AP)Premium
A file photo from the aftermath of the communal clash in Muzaffarnagar.   (Photo: AP)

For long, partisan preferences in politics in India have shaped voters’ opinions about government performance and political outlook. But now, the country seems to be entering into a territory where politics may have started impacting personal relationships, too. Indians are sharply divided on even fundamental questions like the health of the democracy.

The latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey, conducted among 10,271 respondents across 204 cities and towns, points to two trends. First, partisan attachments are getting stronger. In comparison to the previous round held in late 2021, there is an upward shift in strong partisan sentiments and there is a sharp decline among those who don’t identify with any party strongly. Second, Indians display a high level of homophily, or feeling more at home with people sharing similar political opinions. This tendency seems to be higher in intimate and personal relationships like spouse, close friends, and relatives, than in work colleagues.

The survey was held in June and July, in the run-up to India completing 75 years of independence. It was conducted jointly by the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, Mint, and the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR). It was the eighth in a series of bi-annual online surveys aimed at examining the aspirations, anxieties, and attitudes of India’s digital natives.

Partisanship and relationships

Around 39% of urban Indians came across as “strong partisans" on our partisan index, which is based on how respondents react to four questions we use to gauge the extent of support they hold for their favourite political party. This was slightly higher than the 37% we found in late 2021. The share of weak partisans—those who either do not favour any political party or exhibit weak support—declined from 42% to 38%.

Around 52% of the respondents concurred that there is a scope for diversity in political opinions with work colleagues, whereas for spouses, this falls to 37%. Around 27% of respondents reported they were never in agreement with the political opinion of their spouses, which is also the highest of any other category of relationships, suggesting higher chances in their relationship strain due to difference in political views.

There is a strong correlation between the level of partisan attachment and homophilic tendencies. Around 40% of respondents said they had experienced some form of strain in their relationships due to differences in political opinions in recent years. People with strong partisan tendencies are more likely (51%) to experience such strain than those with weak partisan beliefs (26%).

State of democracy

Indians are also partisan in their perception of democracy itself, the survey suggests. One complaint that several public intellectuals have had with India under the Bharatiya Janata Party is a perceived decline in the state of democracy. International organizations and think tanks have often suggested so. However, Indians are split on this belief, along party lines.

Nearly 39% of BJP supporters think that democracy has improved in recent years, while only 25% of others say so. On the other hand, while 21% of the BJP supporters think democracy has declined, 35% of the other party supporters agreed with the same.

Communal violence

Around 42% of the respondents said there was an increase in Hindu-Muslim violence in their cities in the last five years. Among Tier I cities (metros), this share grew to 48%. The share was the least (37%) in Tier III cities. Respondents from the southern part of the country were the least likely (37%) to report an increase in such violence, and north Indians were the most likely (48%).

Well, who is responsible for the increase in such violence? Around 52% of respondents who said violence had increased blamed news and social media, followed by 45% blaming leaders of the BJP.

There are strong partisanship links with the perception of communal violence. Nearly half (48%) of the strong partisan respondents believed there was a rise in communal violence in their cities, while 37% with weak party ties said so.

All these trends suggest that India is now amidst a cycle of incremental polarization in politics. This is increasingly likely to shape how citizens perceive the performance of incumbents, social and personal relationships, and the state of India’s democracy.

The authors are with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi.

This is one of six parts in a data journalism series based on the YouGov-Mint-CPR survey held in the run-up to India completing 75 years of independence. Read all the parts here.

The survey's questionnaires, raw data and methodology for all rounds, including the latest one, can be found here


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Updated: 14 Aug 2022, 05:28 PM IST
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