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Choosing thy neighbour


Read new analysis from the Lok Surveys on social bias in today’s The Hindu. This article comes as the latest installment of a four-part series presenting results from the second round of the Lok Surveys. In the article, CASI’s Post-doctoral Research Fellow Neelanjan Sircar and Research Coordinator Megan Reed discuss findings regarding caste and religious bias in preferences for neighbors. Those identifying as middle class displayed much higher levels of social bias than those who do not. To the extent that the social mobility associated with middle class identification results in people from different identity groups competing for the same jobs and resources, middle class identity, we speculate, may actually amplify rather than attenuate social conflict explaining this difference is reported bias. Read more of the findings in “Choosing thy Neighbour.”

The Lok Surveys are a multi-year panel study sponsored by the Lok Foundation and carried out in collaboration with the Center for the Advanced Study of India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Lok Surveys aim to track the attitudes of Indians over the next several years, as part of a significant new effort to understand the social and political reconfigurations taking place across India today. CMIE, on behalf of the Lok Foundation, conducted face-to-face interviews of 69,920 randomly selected Indians across 25 states and union territories between January and May 2014. 2011 Read the first article in the series “Being Middle Class in India.” Also read about and view data on the Lok Pre-election Survey. 











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Building Indianness

Dr. Devesh Kapur, Director of CASI

Dr. Devesh Kapur, Director of CASI

CASI’s Director, Devesh Kapur, has written a must-read opinion article in Business Standard which gives specific suggestions on how the NDA government can increase social solidarity in India.

“One of the most difficult challenges facing the new government is to weave a stronger fabric of “Indianness”, with a shared sense of destiny and social solidarity, while respecting the multiple threads that form the beliefs and cultures that constitute the multi-hued Indian fabric” Continue reading…

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Milan Vaishnav on Charlie Rose

Watch Tuesday’s episode of Charlie Rose on PBS which includes a discussion about the upcoming Indian election with Milan Vaishnav from the Lok Survey project team, Sadanand Dhume, Professor Arvind Panagariya and Jonathan Shainin. The discussion begins at 28:17. You can also watch the video on

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Milan Vaishnav discusses Lok Survey on Bloomberg TV

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Identity Predicts Vote Choice, not Electoral Outcomes


The graph above displays the predicted vote for NDA and UPA by identity group for 2009 and 2014. The data are calculated from the Lok Survey. We see that there is indeed a very strong relationship between identity group and support for NDA vis-a-vis UPA.

In both 2009 and 2014, the difference in support for UPA as compared to NDA is least among upper castes, then OBCs, SCs, STs, and most among Muslims. However, simply focusing on this fact would mask the huge reversal of fortune for the UPA between 2009 and 2014. Change in electoral outcomes is driven by increases in support for NDA within identity groups, not by the relative support for NDA across them.

Indeed, there were double-digit increases in support for NDA among upper castes and OBCs, and an increase of 8 percentage points among SCs (and virtually no change in support among STs and Muslims). The magnitudes of these changes are far too large to be explained by a few well-organized subcastes switching allegiances.

The problem with a pure identity-based logic for electoral outcomes is that it masks the volatility in Indian elections. Identity is relatively fixed over time, electoral outcomes are not. In fact, Leigh Linden has shown that, in the post-1991 period, MPs actually face a strong anti-incumbency bias.

So, if identity doesn’t predict movement in electoral outcomes, what does? Well, that’s the subject of my next TOI piece with Milan Vaishnav and Devesh Kapur, so you’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.