A study conducted to assess the political predilections of social media users in India claims that three-fourth of the Hindus believe that India belongs to 'all religions equally', while about a fifth of them feel otherwise.
The results are part of a survey conducted by the Centre for Studies of Developing Societies (CSDS) to gauge the impact of social media and smartphones on voters in the current political milieu in the country.
According to the report, which was released on Tuesday, both type of believers are higher among Hindus with 'high exposure' to social media compared to non-users. For instance, while 17 per cent of the non-users of social media are of the opinion that 'India belongs to Hindus only', 19 per cent among users hold the same view. Similarly, 73 per cent of the non-users believe that the country 'belongs to all religions equally' as against 75 per cent of the users who have the same line of thought.
"As it appears, the usage of social media does have an impact in making the beliefs you hold somewhat stronger, as it perhaps gives you a space where you can express and share your views and opinions," the report read.
The study is based on fieldwork conducted by CSDS across 211 parliamentary constituencies in 26 states between April and May. A total of 24,236 voters were interviewed during the survey.
Based on the mode of social media interaction and the frequency daily, weekly, rarely or never used – of usage, respondents with a view that 'India belongs to only Hindus' is higher in weekly – users of Facebook and WhatsApp as well as rare users of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram compared with daily users and those who have never used these mediums.
Similarly, as per the report, a weekly user of WhatsApp and a rare user of WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram are less likely to believe that India belongs to all religions equally.
Further, the study shows that Hindu voters with high exposure to social media are more likely to believe that Muslims are highly nationalist compared with non-users. However, within the same category, number of people who believe that 'Muslims are not nationalists at all' is also higher than non-users.
So, while 28 per cent of the respondents with high social media exposure think that Muslims are highly nationalist, 15 per cent of the people within the same category hold the extreme opposite view. The same figures for non-users are 21 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.
Platform-wise, only 23 per cent of the daily users of Twitter are of the opinion that Muslims are highly nationalist, which is the lowest when compared with other platforms – Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and YouTube. On the other hand, weekly and rare users of Twitter are also the most likely to believe that Muslims are highly nationalist at 33 and 32 per cent, respectively, compared to other mediums.