A higher share of the young disapprove of recent government actions such as those relating to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC)
For the old faithful of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), 2019 is a year to remember and cherish. It brought the BJP back to power with a thumping majority, and saw the new government take decisive steps to fulfil long-standing promises of the party: the abolition of Article 370 and the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The former granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir before getting revoked last year, while the latter introduced a religious angle to India’s citizenship law. The Supreme Court’s verdict on Ram Mandir was the icing on the cake for the committed BJP voter.
But if these events made the BJP popular among the old, they have also divided the youth. Fresh data from the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey shows that disapproval for the current government’s core ideological agenda is far higher among the youth than among the old, at least in urban India. The youth are also more worried about the state of the Indian economy. Unsurprisingly then, BJP’s support among the urban youth today is significantly lower than its support among the older generations.
Among the urban youth, a majority felt that the removal of Article 370 was a step in the right direction. But those who felt that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) or the CAA were steps in the right direction were in a minority.
Disapproval for many of these controversial policies, which either faced public protests or were challenged in courts, is higher among the young. The share of those who disapproved of such policies is the highest among post-millennials (or Gen Z adults) and lowest among pre-millennials (those above 40). Millennials appear wedged between the two age-groups on most of these issues.
The YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey was conducted online between 12 March and 2 April across 184 towns and cities. The survey covered a sample of 10,005 respondents of which 4,957 were millennials, 2,983 post-millennials and 2,065 pre-millennials.
Millennials refer to those who were born between 1981 and 1996—they are the ones who attained adulthood in the early 21st century, and growing up, saw the world become digitally connected. Those born after 1996 (aged 23 years or below) are referred to as the post-millennials or Gen Z. The rest (40 years and above) have been classified as pre-millennials. The survey was conducted jointly by Mint, the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, and the Delhi-based think tank, CPR (Centre for Policy Research) to gauge the aspirations and attitudes of India’s digital natives.
Across generations, a majority of respondents said they approved of the abrogation of Article 370, which still faces a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court. But even on this issue, the level of support is relatively higher among pre-millennials than among millennials and post-millennials.
The support for the government’s controversial decisions was higher in the northern and central parts of the country, and lower in the south, where the party’s support base is smaller.
About three in four respondents from the northern and central parts of the country said the removal of Article 370 was right for the country. Only half of the respondents in the south said the same. Two-thirds of respondents in the rest of the country felt the same way. Responses on other contentious issues saw a similar regional divide.
Nearly a half of young respondents (millennials and post-millennials) felt the economy was headed in the wrong direction. A similar proportion of young respondents also felt that the country was headed in the wrong direction as far as ties between the two religious communities (Hindus and Muslims) were concerned. Over a third of young respondents were worried about the lack of freedom of expression in the country.
Among pre-millennials too, a similar proportion of respondents expressed such concerns. But on all such issues, a higher share of pre-millennials said that the country was headed in the right direction.
The survey shows that the BJP enjoys greater support among pre-millennials than among millennials and post-millennials. A majority (51 percent) among the pre-millennials said they identified most with the BJP. Among millennials, 45 percent said so. Among post-millenials, the figure was even lower, at 38 percent.
Although more youth support the BJP than any other party, the latest survey figures signal a slide in BJP’s popularity compared to a year-ago. An early-2019 survey carried out by Yougov and Mint had found that about half of millennials and post-millennials identified closely with the BJP. That survey was based on a smaller sample compared to the 2020 survey but was representative of the same demographic: online urban Indians.
The latest survey suggests that the BJP’s pursuit of its core ideological agenda may have been discomfiting for many of its young supporters, who may have earlier seen the party as an agent of change that would help fulfill their economic aspirations. The BJP’s neglect of the economy, and the pursuit of a divisive agenda may have cost it the support of these swing voters.
The disenchantment of the urban youth with the party, however, does not signal a crossover to the Congress. The latest survey suggests that smaller regional parties are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of this distrust of the ruling party. Of course, if the BJP changes course, it is possible that it could win back the support that it has lost among the youth.
This is the concluding part of a five-part data journalism series on the aspirations and attitudes of India’s digital natives. The first part examined the job aspirations of millennials, the second looked at their relationship preferences, the third looked at how they have fared compared to their parents, and the fourth part examined the youth’s experience of discrimination.