Lokniti is a research programme of the CSDS established in 1997. It houses a cluster of research initiatives that seeks to engage with national and global debates on democratic politics by initiating empirically grounded yet theoretically oriented studies. By bringing various projects of the CSDS on elections, democratic politics and party politics together under a single programme, Lokniti seeks to engage with global debates on democracy. Though housed at the Centre, it derives its strength from its nationwide network of scholars located in universities, colleges and other research institutions across the country. All major studies undertaken by Lokniti are conceptualized, operationalized and executed by the members of this network. This has contributed to strengthening the tradition of collaborative research among Indian scholars and researchers.

Electoral patterns and voting behaviour are the key focus areas of Lokniti’s research. The programme has carried out various national- and state-level cross-sectional surveys as part of its research on electoral patterns. This includes landmark studies such as a series of National Election Studies (NES) (1967–2014), a series of State Assembly Election Studies (1995–2011), State of the Nation Surveys (2006–11), the State of Democracy in South Asia Study (2005–7) and a series of Studies of Indian Youth (2007–11).

This large volume of data collected by Lokniti has gone a long way in helping social science scholars make sense of Indian elections and democracy. From time to time, Lokniti has published key election data and analysis in reputed academic journals and leading newspapers. It has also regularly partnered with various print and electronic media outlets to disseminate the findings of its election survey research to a wider audience.

Over the past decade Lokniti has managed to expand its network to South Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives). In collaboration with this network, it conducted the State of Democracy in South Asia-I project, the second round of which is currently in progress. Lokniti has also been part of several collaborative research projects like the Global Barometer Surveys and World Value Surveys. It has with international organizations and institutes that work on issues of politics and democracy. These include the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Kings India Institute, London, University College of London, British Academy (UKERI Project) and various universities in the USA (Columbia University, Stanford University and the University of California, to name a few).

With the intention of training young researchers in using quantitative data for social science research, Lokniti has been organizing an annual summer workshop on ‘Quantitative Methods in Political Science’ since 2007. Nearly 150 young researchers have benefited from the workshop, and many are now teaching in colleges and universities, working in research institutes or pursuing higher degrees in prestigious universities around the world. For the CSDS Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2013, Lokniti is planning to expand its summer workshop into a South Asia-wide platform in collaboration with the London School of Economics and Ohio State University.

The journal Studies in Indian politics started in 2013 publishes research writings that seek to explain different aspects of Indian politics. It adopts a multi-method approach and will publish articles based on primary data in the qualitative and quantitative traditions, archival research, interpretation of texts and documents, and secondary data.