Roughly half of India’s urban millennials support the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while only a sixth favour the principal opposition party, Congress. The popularity of BJP’s top leader, Narendra Modi, is slightly more than that of his party while that of the Congress president, Rahul Gandhi is slightly less than that of his party.
These are among the striking findings of the second round of the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in January and February this year. The survey ended before the airstrike by India on Pakistani soil and the counterattack by Pakistan, and hence does not take into account either the post-Balakot surge in support for Modi or the subsequent decline of that surge reported by other surveys. In that sense, this survey is a Balakot-free assessment of what India’s urban youth want.
Understanding millennial views is important because of their growing numbers. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) and post-millennials (Gen Zers aged 18 to 22) are increasingly becoming the target-group of global marketers. Their growing numbers have not been lost on politicians either, with almost all political parties vying for their attention through social media campaigns targeted at the digitally-connected demographic group. Millennials and post-millennial adults together account for roughly half of India’s electorate, 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 (with 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) and the rest were even older.
The support for Modi and the BJP cuts across age-groups, with only a mild dip in support for the ruling regime among younger millennials. More respondents expressed support for regional parties than for the Congress, with 33 percent of older millennials and 38 percent of younger millennials supporting neither BJP nor Congress.
Given that the sample of Congress supporters is quite small across cohorts, the rest of the analysis will focus on BJP-leaning and non-BJP-leaning youth (including those aligned with Congress and other parties). In some cases, the data for millennials and post-millennials are clubbed together to ensure adequate sample size.
The survey data shows that 75 percent of the urban youth (millennials and post-millennials) reported to be either regular voters or said they are likely to vote this time. The same proportion among the older generation was slightly higher (81 percent) among older men and women.
Among the youth, BJP enjoys greater support among regular voters (those who said they always vote) but among first-time voters (those who hadn’t voted in the past but intend to vote now), non-BJP parties enjoy greater support.
While the BJP enjoys support across individuals belonging to different income groups, the support is higher among the affluent than among the less well-off. 55% of those from relatively affluent households (household income above ₹75,000 per month) expressed support for the BJP while among those who belonged to relatively poorer families (those with family income below ₹20,000 per month), the support was lower at 47%. Non-BJP parties collectively enjoy greater support (53%) among the latter group.
The survey data does not reveal much differences in caste-based support for BJP and non-BJP parties but this could be partly because of non-response. Among respondents who choose not to reveal their caste identity, support for non-BJP parties is far higher than that for the BJP.
When it comes to religion though, there is a clear divide between Hindu and non-Hindu youth, with an overwhelming majority of urban Hindu youth favouring the BJP and an overwhelming majority of non-Hindu youth favouring non-BJP parties.
The data also suggests that BJP-leaning voters are more politically active compared to others. Among millennials and post-millennials, 53% of those who reported having taken part in some kind of online or offline political mobilizations supported the BJP. Among the older generations, this proportion was a bit higher at 58%.
Overall, the political preferences and activism of India’s urban netizens seem to be influenced more by the social group and income class they belong to rather than by the age-cohort they belong to. Within the online crowd in urban India, the younger lot is as much (or less) polarized as the older lot.
This is the first of a three-part data journalism series on the political preferences of India’s digital natives.