Election Commission data show that 2.3 crore people in the 18-19 age bracket have been enrolled to vote, out of a total electorate of 81.5 crore

This Lok Sabha election is likely to reflect the peak of India’s electoral demographic dividend with 10% of voters likely to be first-time voters, a combination of electoral and demographic data shows. As fertility begins to decline – faster in the south than in the north – this election may mark the highest ever political impact of first-time voters.

Summary revision data released by the Election Commission on Thursday shows that 2.3 crore 18-19 year-olds have been enrolled to vote, out of a total electorate of 81.5 crore voters. Additionally, The Hindu’s analysis of census data shows that there were 12 crore people aged 15-19 at the time of the 2011 census, making them people who were too young to vote in 2009, but eligible to vote in 2014. These potential first-time voters formed 10 per cent of the population.

This youth bulge might reflect the peak of India’s ‘demographic dividend’, as fertility declines and India’s population begins to age.

In 2001, people aged 15-19 were, in comparison, 9.7 per cent of the population. The United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ latest World Population Prospects shows that India’s 15-19 aged cohort will peak in 2015 after which it will begin to decline as a proportion of the population.

“The southern States reached replacement levels of fertility by 1995, but the northern States still have relatively high fertility. So the peak of the 15-19 age cohort will have already passed in the southern States, but in the northern States, this cohort could be at its peak,” Dr. P. Arokiasamy, demographer and professor in the Department of Development Studies at the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), told The Hindu.

The Election Commission’s data show that the proportion of 18-19 year-olds registered to vote is the highest in Jharkhand (9 per cent of total electors), Chhattisgarh (4.9 per cent) and Rajasthan (4.8 per cent) and the lowest in Himachal Pradesh (1.3 per cent), Maharashtra (1.4 per cent) and Kerala and Karnataka (1.8 per cent).

This proportion is higher than the difference in voteshare between the party that polled the highest seats and the runner-up in some states including Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.

Historically, voter turnout among young voters has been substantially lower than the average turnout. “Since 1996, we have seen that voter turnout among young voters is 5-6 percentage points lower than the average turnout,” Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies who leads its National Election Studies, told The Hindu. Moreover, young voters have tended to remain as divided among different political parties as other voters, and without a cohort-specific issue that animates them.

“Our study at the time of the last Assembly election showed a clear preference among young voters for the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi and a slight tilt towards the BJP in other States,” Mr. Kumar said. In their January national poll, the shift towards the BJP was even more pronounced and included a surge among rural voters, while the BJP had traditionally been relatively popular among urban young voters, Mr. Kumar said.

More In: National | News