Sunday, April 19, 2009
Analyzing the SMS effect on 2009 Election Result
The BJP has launched an agressive SMS campaign aiming to send SMS to 250 million cell phone subscribers urging them to vote for BJP candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. I am not aware of the Congress or Third Front having efforts on a similar scale. Can this change the outcome of the election ? A first cut analysis is presented here.
I believe that an SMS message is unlikely to change the party choice of an individual, but it CAN increase turnout amoung people likely to vote for the BJP anyway. Assuming that 80% of the SMS reach valid voters. This implies an SMS reaches 200 million voters. Assuming further that 40% of voters receiving SMS could be inclined to vote for the BJP. This is a reasonable assumption given that the BJP captured around 28% vote nationally and BJP is likely to do better than that in subsection of the population that owns cell phones. So 80 million voters who might vote for BJP could get SMS reminding them to vote. Assuming that 50% of these voters would vote anyway, then we are left will 40 million SMS to voters who could be inclined to vote for BJP but are not voting.
Assuming 25% effectiveness this could result in 10 million extra votes for BJP. The SMS is likely to reach more voters in the urban constituencies compared to rural ones. Assuming 50% of the SMS went to the 100 urban constituencies where BJP is a factor, then the 50,000 extra votes for BJP in each of these consituencies. This can easily have the effect of switching 10 seats from the Congress to BJP i.e. a 20 seat swing which can dramatically alter the post poll equations.
Where can we look for this effect ? The results in Delhi (a predominantly Urban state) would be a good indicator for effectiveness of SMS campaign. Most predictions today show either a 5-2 or 6-1 split in favour of the Congress and vote percentages of the Congress and BJP were quite close in last year's assembly elections. Thus, if the BJP achieves aa 5-2 or 4-3 result in Delhi it might indicate that the SMS campaign played a key role. Other Urban constituencies with traditionally close results might also be good indicators.
Can we detect such a things by looking at turnout ? Actually, it might be hard to dectect the effectiveness of SMS using turnout as the increase would only be 1-2%.
On the other hand if SMS method was only 2.5% effective, it would translate into only 1 million votes nationwide. In that case, it may not be able to switch the result in more than 1-2 seats and be an overall non factor.