How do millennials leaning towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) differ from others? Are BJP supporters more religious or more socially conservative compared to the rest?

An analysis of the data from the second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in January and February this year, shows that the values and belief systems of BJP’s supporters and opponents, among India’s urban youth, converge on many issues. Family, friends and work are among the most important things in the life of most respondents cutting across party lines. Religion, too, seems to be equally important for those who support the ruling party and those who don’t.

On some social issues, such as inter-caste and inter-religious marriage, BJP-leaning youth are slightly more liberal than the rest, while on others, such as the role of women, BJP-leaning youth are more conservative.

The survey also shows that BJP-leaning youth are slightly more liberal than others when it comes to same-sex relationships and marriages, with 46% of them saying they find such relationships “completely" or “somewhat" acceptable, compared to 42% of those who support other parties. Understanding millennial views is important because of their growing numbers. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and post-millennials (Gen Z) are increasingly becoming the target group of global marketers and politicians, with both groups wishing to influence the digitally connected and growing demographic. Millennials and post-millennial adults together account for roughly half of the electorate in India, with an estimated population (based on census projections) of 459 millions in 2019.

The YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey was conducted online, among 5,038 respondents from YouGov India’s panel of internet users spread across more than 180 cities—2,709 of the 5,038 respondents were millennials (including 1,489 younger millennials), 1,188 were from the Gen-Z (born after 1996). Among the rest 1,141, nearly three-fourths belonged to the Gen-X (born between 1965 and 1981), while the rest were even older. Overall, there is not much to tell the two groups apart when it comes to a host of social issues.

However, there are three key issues on which there is a stark divide between the BJP-supporting youth and the rest: Ram Mandir, the consumption of meat products (especially beef), and the consumption of alcohol. For a generation that reached adulthood after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the support for a Ram Mandir at the disputed site appears most surprising .

Among the millennials and post-millennials, a similar proportion (roughly one-fifth) of both BJP-supporters and others believe it is for the court to decide whether a temple should be built at the disputed site or not. Less than one-tenth on both sides said they “don’t care". However, the proportion of BJP-supporting youth who think a temple should be built on the site is far higher than among the youth supporting other parties. About 16% of BJP supporters said that “either way, we want communal harmony". Among other youth, this proportion was higher at 24%.

BJP’s young supporters have a problem with meat, but a bigger beef with beef. Nearly 41% of the youth who don’t support the BJP consider eating beef acceptable. Among BJP loyalists, that proportion is nearly half (21%). BJP’s supporters also seem to have a problem with alcohol (see chart 3).

While a section of BJP-leaning youth have more conservative or strident views on certain issues, it is worth noting that a sizable section of BJP-leaning youth also have diametrically opposite views on the same issues. BJP-leaning youth are also only slightly more likely to identify their religious identity as their primary identity in life. Only 17% of BJP supporters (as opposed to 14% among others) said that their religious identity was most important, to a question about which identity they considered the most important in life. A much greater proportion (31%) felt that their linguistic identity was more important. Among millennials and post-millennials who don’t support the ruling party, 26% felt that their linguistic identity was most important.

The question on identity allowed multiple responses to each respondents and, on all the identity parameters listed (language, religion, caste, nationality, work/union, college/alumni group), the share of BJP-leaning youth who considered these important is higher than non-BJP supporters. Perhaps, questions of identity hold a greater place in the hearts of BJP-leaning youth compared to others. And, not all of them think that their national identity or Indian-ness is the most important or the only identity that matters. Only a quarter of BJP supporters felt that their nationality (Indian) was the most important identity, or was among the most important identities in life. Among the youth who don’t support the BJP, this share was a bit lower at 18%. The young Indian who supports the BJP is as much a complex being as the one who opposes it, but there seems to be some core identity-linked issues, which a sizable section of BJP-leaning youth believe more strongly in.

This is the concluding part of a three-part data journalism series on the political preferences of India’s digital natives. The first part examined the support for different parties among millennials, and the second looked at what young voters want from the government.

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