The young voter

Published: August 6, 2012
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The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

It is not possible to make exact predictions about the voting behaviour of citizens according to class, gender, race, ethnicity, age or on the grounds of their locations. However, these are the very subjects of interest among elections experts around the world. True, it is possible to sketch some clear patterns of voting behaviour if some organisations establish data bank voter-exit surveys registering their profiles and asking questions about which candidate or party they voted for. By accumulating information over decades, pollsters and electoral analysts have formed patterns. However, these are just patterns with variations depending on economic circumstances, social equilibrium or instability and general stakes of citizens and the credibility of the candidates and parties in the run.

What about the electoral behaviour of Pakistani voters? We know very little. Most of the things that we say about electoral behaviour are based on party positions and the number or percentage of votes the candidates obtained. There is not much for the exit polls except some efforts by Gallup Pakistan. The picture remains murky and may remain so unless our data bank of exit polls improves and Gallup or other organisations develop expertise for the long run.

Voting behaviour —the social, economic, political and personal factors or interests that determine an individual’s choice on the polling day — is an important subject to investigate for parties as well as for analysts. At the moment, we go by caste, creed, tribe, ethnicity and other social solidarity group analysis. The individual is always missing as we make two unfounded and unempirical assumptions about Pakistan. One, Pakistan has not changed or if it has, it is too slow and small to be counted. Second, individuals — no matter where they live, what they do or what social or economic mobility they have achieved — are first and foremost members of a larger social solidarity group. And the influence of those groups weighs heavily on the political choices individual makes.

Pakistan has changed over time and so we must change our lenses when looking at Pakistan. As we prepare for the next general elections, we need to keep in mind some important changes. About half of the voters are new, young voters under the age of 30. We don’t exactly know how they are going to vote but casting them in the old template will be as mistaken a view as believing that they will transform the electoral outcome. We don’t know much except information by neutral surveys from distant lands like the Pew Research Centre that shows the popularity of various leaders; the Kaptan is way ahead of President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.

How the young voter is going to vote is the worst fear of the PML-N and the PPP, knowing well that their leaders cannot match the popular appeal of Imran Khan. Lacking that personal touch, President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have groomed themselves as masters of elite-network politics — court electables and you will be fine. One of the most interesting things to watch from now until the conclusion of the next general elections is how the youth factor — which is apparently a PTI strength — will play out against elite-network politics that Imran Khan has also embraced belatedly. The young voter factor may not have uniform effect, though. It may have uneven impact in urban constituencies more than rural ones.

I cannot say if the old social solidarities and voting blocs will remain firm in infirm social and economic conditions and when the ‘mandated’ rulers have much to answer for their performances. Perhaps, more than that, passivity or activism of the youth may determine party fortunes.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Mujtaba
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:26PM

    Mr. Imran Khan has been around in politics for 15 years now, in which time many young voters have grown old, but have apparently not voted for him or PTI. What is new now?

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  • Hammad
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:33PM

    We need regular elections to break the solidarity pattern of voting and bring objective and manifesto based democracy.

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  • Aug 6, 2012 - 9:34PM

    PTI has an advantage !!

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  • Mirza
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:34PM

    Not too long ago people were dreaming, demanding and agitating for the restoration of CJ. How many times we had heard that “if only CJ is restored all our problems would be solved”. Now we are hearing about if only a certain person comes to power all our problems including power, corruption, illiteracy, and social evils would be wiped out. These are all like cars powered by pure water. The nation is looking for one man to come and change their plight. Unless the person has a magic lamp it is not going to happen. Let us talk about honest programs and how that would be implemented and funded for a good start. There are no magic solutions or shortcuts.Recommend

  • 3footninja
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:51PM

    @Mujtaba:
    Nothing much is new… just a lot of bad governance, corruption, target killing, drone killing, suicide killing, theft, power cuts, load-shedding, lack of drinking water, unemployment, no healthcare, killer mosquitoes, no respect, no sovereignty, lots of looting and plundering, and a teeny weeny 30 million new-voter population under the age of 30. Other than that, nothing is new.

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  • m.sadiq
    Aug 6, 2012 - 9:52PM

    Its high time for the Pakistani youth to wake up and stand up against the tyranny of the tyrrant and change the set patterns of dirty power politics…….though its an uphill task but “where there is a will, there is a way”. My dear young fellows its never too late…

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  • Raja Islam
    Aug 6, 2012 - 10:15PM

    Moast young voters will not go out and vote. Imran may have some following in urban Punjab and parts of Karachi, but this following will not translate into assembly seats.

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  • Abid Ali
    Aug 6, 2012 - 10:30PM

    @mujtaba, during last four years things have changed big time. non performance of Zardari (PPP) and Nawaz (PML) at federal and provincial level has created political vacuum. All major parties are in government, in one form or another, that has never happened before.

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  • Falcon
    Aug 6, 2012 - 10:56PM

    Good insight. I think this is a great chance for youth to bring some capable political leadership in the country. The longer we wait, the worse it will get.

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  • Falcon
    Aug 6, 2012 - 10:57PM

    @Mujtaba:
    Wait till next elections and you will find out what is new.

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  • shoaib
    Aug 6, 2012 - 11:11PM

    @Mujtaba
    Difference is the new electoral list, most of these young voters were never on the electoral list

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  • PakJam
    Aug 6, 2012 - 11:34PM

    @Mirza: ji he never said resoration of CJ only… He said restoration of judiciary. Can’t you feel the difference between Dogar courts which were lying in the feet of government and this independent and powerful judiciary which can even summon a PM on contempt. Meaning all are equal in front of law.
    Although i wonder why Shareef case has not been heard yet.

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  • antanu g
    Aug 6, 2012 - 11:39PM

    @Mujtaba:
    lots of water has flown in rivers for the last 10 years.Grow up and accept the truth before it shocks you.

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Aug 6, 2012 - 11:47PM

    Young people cannot choose subjects they like to study, they cannot choose profession they like, they cannot choose life partner they like but Imran is so unique that they will break all shackles and rebel against their parents and society.

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  • Zoaib
    Aug 7, 2012 - 12:15AM

    The youth continue to come out in hordes in PTI rallies across the country and I feel they will also come out to vote this time. This time it is truly in their hands to bring about the CHANGE that they want and usher in a new era of our democracy in Pakistan. One thing is for sure: any new voter or the youth will most probably prefer to vote for new parties than any of the old older…

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  • Ch. Allahdaad
    Aug 7, 2012 - 12:26AM

    my vote still for sir nawaz sharif. he attract youth with free laptops. i like free laptop. nawaz bhai zindabad!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Aug 7, 2012 - 12:27AM

    Its time to stand up for our rights. Vote can make a difference. Its time to stand against political status-co and now a chance should be given to sincere leadership that is PTI.

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  • Ahad
    Aug 7, 2012 - 12:44AM

    @ mirza, i always read ur comments full of hopelessness and a belief can nothing change, u r pessimistic bro..
    Nw abt imran u said no one leader can change and i tell u nations are changed under one leader starting from china to america, one has to start, i m
    Nt comparing kaptaan wid others evi 1 has its strengths and weaknesses, he has got the will and belief dats we need the most as a nation.
    Even in the worst case he want b worse than this ppp govt, instead of trying some old stuff the most logical solution is to try new, dats where he has the advantage, he has proved through his social work projects that he can do it. INSHALLAH he will do it, or bhai khush raha kro b+

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  • Zia
    Aug 7, 2012 - 12:47AM

    90% youth is with Imran.
    Tabdeeli aa chuki hai.

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  • Pmbm
    Aug 7, 2012 - 1:30AM

    How can honest people be elected when contestants are picked by chairman of the party.They should be made to nominate only scrutinized honest candidates. But who is going to make a chairman do that?Recommend

  • elementary
    Aug 7, 2012 - 1:53AM

    PTI is not a name for one person as biased pseudointellectuals try to portray;it is a movement which is based on a system of justice ,equality and corruption free governance. Youth of the country are striving for one such system, which can be lead by any credible man of integrity,it happens to be IK at the moment.

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  • Qaim Ali shah the macho man
    Aug 7, 2012 - 1:53AM

    imran khan will take seats even from sindh inshaALLAH :) we dont need corruption thats it !!

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  • Lahori
    Aug 7, 2012 - 1:58AM

    even though i am a PTI supporter the fact that more than half of all voters are less than 30 is not a guarantee of his success. How many of these voters are the educated masses that kaptaan sahib reached out to? More than half of all voters are from rural backgrounds where they are under the obligation of a village sheikh to vote for a certain MNA of PPP or PMLN. furthermore there are many places where PTI hasn’t even seen that are bastions for PMLN and PPP. Such people have short term needs and wants and don’t see the long term aims that PTI propose and it is these rural dwellers that are easily bought in the droves by PMLN and PPP, or any other party.

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  • elementary
    Aug 7, 2012 - 2:00AM

    @PakJam: Agree. PTI is for institutions and system building.Bigots try to dwarf it by accusing it of personality worships;nothing can be farther from the truth however. Fact of the matter is that it is PPP whose supporters are personality worshippers ,shrines in Garhi khuda Bukhsh is enough proof of it.

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  • MA76
    Aug 7, 2012 - 2:04AM

    Imran is not even going to win a seat himself. All this hype will have a tragic end for its naive followers and dishonest propagandists like this author.

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  • Aug 7, 2012 - 2:29AM

    Nice Analysis Sir Rasul Bakhsh Raes. I think a healthy portion of youth voters will go out and vote, thanks to the boom in social networking sites. But we don’t yet know the effectiveness of this new voting class. PTI is undoubtedly firmly in control of young voters. PML-N might have grabbed some potential voters because of aggressive schemes by Punjab Government. PPP, MQM and ANP has virtually no vote bank among these young voters. But PPP has almost guaranteed seats in Interior Sindh & Southern Punjab. However, I see biggest upsets in urban areas of Punjab and KP. Not much action will happen in Balochistan though.Recommend

  • ????
    Aug 7, 2012 - 4:13AM

    @ Raja Islam im sorry what “parts of karachi” in IK dreams ….. 95 % vote of karachi is for mqm 5 % left r of anp ppp will break pti kids in to two peces

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  • Tamoor
    Aug 7, 2012 - 5:00AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    Thats your point isnt do as your parents do never independently if that was the case islam would never have taken off. Ibrahim rebelled and took shahadah. Talk some sense not everybody is a pmln troll.

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  • Caramelized_Onion
    Aug 7, 2012 - 5:47AM

    Tabdeeli a gayee hai!

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  • moin shah
    Aug 7, 2012 - 8:03AM

    PTI is the future, pmln and ppp are the past, and i don’t live in the past !

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  • Rao
    Aug 7, 2012 - 8:28AM

    Good analysis:
    The youth is hope for this country if this is not influenced by their tradions.
    Family is much important, in Pakistan,may not country,and youth is part of family, during elections youth does what their elders orders.
    It will be miracle if KAPTAN wins the next election.Furthermore, if he really brings true change he has to be flexible and kickout first PPP from the scene along with PML-N.
    There is no morality in politics and he has to realise this sense,it does not work in Pakistan at all.
    Youn voters are the part of Pakistani culture, so do not axpect too much.

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  • Iram
    Aug 7, 2012 - 9:48AM

    Youth will not only cast vote but also campaign for the PTI,

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  • Ammar
    Aug 7, 2012 - 10:26AM

    Juvenile analysis indeed

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  • Abbas
    Aug 7, 2012 - 11:34AM

    You are right Sir! Nothing is predictable from now as far s next general elections are concerned. I am below 30 and I know many others who won’t be going to vote for IK or PTI. However you missed one point in your analysis and i.e. conservatism, liberalism or right-left wings. PPP is the only party the Pakistani liberals would go for, though they are less in numbers than the conservatisms. That’s why PPP always lost when the conservative or right wing parties unite together. This implies that PPP success depends upon the unification of right wingers or not. In current scenario when PMLN and PTI are involved in criticizing one another, none less than PPP will benefit.

    Now as PTI or IK claims to obtain more than 200 seats in NA, I hardly find 20 people to contest elections on NA seats from PTI. Even IK doesn’t know the rest of contestants. This is hilarious when we see at most six months to go into next general elections. Furthermore, you missed one more point that Pakistan has still the same rural constituencies, and it is the rural vote that make governments in Pakistan. PTI has to do a lot of hard work in order to grab rural vote which is totally based on personalities of contestants, and those have some backgrounds and political efforts in their constituencies for decades.

    You were referring to the urban centers votes but you forget another thrilling point that a part of this vote is divided as most of the working people in urban centers will have to cast their votes in rural constituencies. So still people believe PTI will clean sweeps, I just have to say then, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.

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  • uet
    Aug 7, 2012 - 11:35AM

    Only 5% of new voters are in urban area, rest are in rural areas and they still gonna vote along traditional lines in rural areas. so PTIANS and their Elite supporters need to chill out a bit before thinking about grabbing all the youth vote.

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  • Qaim Ali shah the macho man
    Aug 7, 2012 - 11:35AM

    @MA76:
    lol wake up sid wake up , or dont get astonish on seeing the number of seats of PTI in next election! and most importantly don’t bag the credit that day that you are a big supporter of Imran too.

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  • Abbas
    Aug 7, 2012 - 11:37AM

    You are right Sir! Nothing is predictable from now as far s next general elections are concerned. I am below 30 and I know many others who won’t be going to vote for IK or PTI. However you missed one point in your analysis and i.e. conservatism, liberalism or right-left wings. PPP is the only party the Pakistani liberals would go for, though they are less in numbers than the conservatisms. That’s why PPP always lost when the conservative or right wing parties unite together. This implies that PPP success depends upon the unification of right wingers or not. In current scenario when PMLN and PTI are involved in criticizing one another, none less than PPP will benefit.

    Now as PTI or IK claims to obtain more than 200 seats in NA, I hardly find 20 people to contest elections on NA seats from PTI. Even IK doesn’t know the rest of contestants. This is hilarious when we see at most six months to go into next general elections. Furthermore, you missed one more point that Pakistan has still the same rural constituencies, and it is the rural vote that make governments in Pakistan. PTI has to do a lot of hard work in order to grab rural vote which is totally based on personalities of contestants, and those have some backgrounds and political efforts in their constituencies for decades.

    You were referring to the urban centers votes but you forget another thrilling point that a part of this vote is divided as most of the working people in urban centers will have to cast their votes in rural constituencies. So still people believe PTI will clean sweeps, I just have to say then, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.

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  • arslan
    Aug 7, 2012 - 11:50AM

    youth of pakistan has decided in favour of IMRAN already….its just the matter of time ,along with them theres the middle class,the literate people,overseas pakistanis…and what u ignore is the fact tht in rural areas people also want to get rid of the lame n pathetic political system,PTI isnt only going to win but with great majority…along with ALMIGHTY we ,the youth r also with him…may ALLAH bless pakistan..ameenRecommend

  • Ahsan
    Aug 7, 2012 - 12:54PM

    The writer has chosen to remain on surface while making his analysis of future course of politics. Things are different below the surface. The young voters who support Imran Khan are mostly from urban based A and O level lot. Whether they will remain in bed or on internet or rise to vote are questions that have an easy answer. Even otherwise this lot has time and again exhibited that they are followers of Zaid Hamid and not Imran Khan.As for the election results the PPP is likely to add about thirty seats to its present holdings.

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  • Falcon
    Aug 7, 2012 - 2:35PM

    @Ahsan:
    Hallucinating much?

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  • ibrahim
    Aug 7, 2012 - 8:04PM

    The young of Pakistan have made their mind to caste vote for whom.They r cognizant of the ground facts and their selection wil be pti.Recommend

  • Jeffmahagaonvi
    Aug 7, 2012 - 9:21PM

    First time young voters are a homogenous group. But in nature, they are
    heterogenous. Because they have different class background, level of education, their
    perception of day to day real politics and their family political affiliation.
    And that’s why they are going to cast their votes to different political parties in the
    coming election.
    Live with love-Let democracy work

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  • Kamran
    Aug 8, 2012 - 3:57PM

    So the honorable prof. thinks the youth of Karachi, Multan, interior Sindh, Balochistan all are LUMS’ students. It is extreme naivety, a wishful thinking or at its best willful intellectual dishonesty

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