Close to half of all registered voters in urban areas are still unsure of whom to vote for in the next elections, although an overwhelming 94 per cent do intend to vote, says a survey by search giant Google.

The large number of undecided voters could be both an opportunity and a challenge for political parties, which are yet to use the Internet effectively to mould public opinion.

Google’s study says a quarter of urban Indians have already started searching for information on parties and candidates, and that a further 35 per cent will start browsing on politicians and elections in the next three months.

The implication is that if the searched-for information is missing, or incomplete, candidates and parties will suffer.

The survey reveals that contrary to popular belief, young urban Indian voters are actively engaged in the electoral process. Sixty-four per cent of young voters aged 18-25 said they have voted before and will vote in the upcoming elections too. The Internet search giant, with the help of research agency TNS, carried out an offline survey in 65 constituencies spread across 59 cities. According to Google, the study covered 41,000 people, focussing on 7,042 respondents.

The survey found that the party and the local candidate are still the deciding factors, not the Prime Ministerial candidate or leadership of the party.

“Thirty-five per cent said their decision will be based on the party and 36 per cent said the local candidate matters to them,” Google India Managing Director Rajan Anandan said.

Google, he said, is already in touch with major political parties with the survey results. He said Google hangouts and YouTube are being used by political parties to hold meetings and even virtual rallies.

“The findings reveal that the Internet will play an important role in influencing the large undecided urban population in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” Anandan said.

Google search trends for the last six months showed that Narendra Modi is the most searched for politician, followed by Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Bharatiya Janata Party was the most searched political party, followed by the Indian National Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.

Both the Congress and the BJP have created teams to work the Internet and engage with social networking Web sites.