Pakistan's TV, Social Media Fuelled Youth Have Most Trust In Military, Least In ECP: Survey

Inflation, poverty, unemployment, education and health are among the top issues on which the youth will be voting; corruption not so much

Pakistan's TV, Social Media Fuelled Youth Have Most Trust In Military, Least In ECP: Survey

With elections just a few sunrises away, the youth of the country are ready to cast their vote and believe a fair election will be held. They, however, do not trust the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) much but remain confident in and trust the military.

The economy, poverty, unemployment, education, and health facilities remain the most pressing issues heading into this election.

These were the results of a survey conducted by global firm IPSOS — which has been operating in Pakistan since 2011. 

The survey was conducted via telephone between January 3 and January 12 for the news outlet Voice of America. It covered a randomised sample of 2000 youngsters split equally between those living in urban and rural areas, covering all four provinces (Punjab: 50%, Sindh: 24%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 13%, Balochistan: 7%, Islamabad Capital Territory 6%).

Of those who were included, 59% were men, while 41% were women. Around 27% of respondents were 18-24 years of age, 30% were 25-29 years of age, and 43% were between 30-34 years of age. The survey respondents were sourced from across the socio-economic classes.

Youth, vote and elections

The survey showed that 75% of youngsters believe the elections will help steer the country in the right direction.

Around 88% of respondents believed that their vote was important, while 77% viewed casting votes as a productive activity.

Around 64% of respondents believed that they expected the February 8 general elections to be free and fair.

Of all the respondents, 70% said they were likely to vote in next week's elections.

The survey further showed that youngsters were quite loyal to the parties they voted for, and 78% were likely to vote for the same party they voted for in 2018. The remaining 22% were ready to swing.

A large section of the youth — around 48%, felt that whatever the outcome of the polls, it would have no impact whatsoever on their daily life.

Among the 52% who believed that it would have an impact, 10% said it would impact slightly, 15% moderately, 21% considerably and only six percent believed the elections would impact their daily lives significantly.

Fair elections

The survey found that a large segment of the youth do not believe the election can be rigged.

Around 68% said they did not think any organisation could rig polls. 

By comparison, only 32% believe that it can be rigged.

Asked which organisation they believed could rig the elections, 68% of respondents pointed to the military. However, elsewhere in the survey, only 63% of voters believed the military's interference in politics was an issue important in how they voted. In terms of priority, interference in politics was the least important.

The ECP was second with 50%; political parties were at 44%, followed by media at 36% and the judiciary at 35%.

Around 22% of youngsters believed that foreign entities could rig the elections. Further, around 64% believed that external or international forces could not influence the elections. Most, around 60%, believed that any external influence would be negative.

Among the countries which could influence who wins the elections, 27% of the respondents believed the US could do so, seven percent believed India could, four percent said China could, two percent each voted for Russia and the UK.

Trusting institutions

Even though the political landscape has been deeply divisive and shockwaves from attacks on military installations across the country around nine months ago still reverberating, the youth continue to repose their trust in the army.

Around 74% said they had confidence in the military. IPSOS said that this has increased greatly from a year ago.

A breakup of the responses gathered by IPSOS showed that the youth in Balochistan expressed the most confidence, with 64%, with only 12% stating that they had no confidence at all in the military.

The least trust expressed in the military was by the youth residing in Punjab, with 51% saying they were completely confident. However, the cross-section which did not trust the military stood at 15%.  

Sindh had 54% of youth expressing confidence. Sindh had the highest number of respondents who expressed a lack of confidence in the military, at 17%.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, around 55% of the youth expressed their confidence in the military. Here, the percentage of youth who lacked trust in the military was the lowest among all provinces, with 11% saying they did trust the army.

It was a similar story for an institution like the Supreme Court, which enjoyed the confidence of 58% of respondents.

Around 54% of respondents said they trusted the media.

Political parties, provincial and federal governments, and the parliament followed with 50%, 49%, 47%, and 47%, respectively.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), though, enjoyed the least trust of the youth at 42%.

Youth and political interest

With a large segment of the Pakistani population, the youth, the survey covered areas that interest them in the elections.

The youth were interested in politics, with 54% indicating that they stay informed about politics, candidates, and their manifestos in their constituency.

They turn to the varying forms of media to stay updated on their political party or candidate of choice, with 29% opting to watch political talk shows on television. 

Another 26% said they actively engage in political discussions on social media
through sharing, posting, and expressing their opinions.

A further 26% said they regularly watch political podcasts and vlogs on social media platforms such as YouTube. 

Only 19% said they regularly read columns in newspapers.

With regards to physical participation in electoral activities, only 29% said they intend to participate in rallies or processions. 

Only 17% said they do not intend to vote.

Issues of interest to youth in elections

With inflation peaking past 47%, it was among the top national issues for 70% of respondents.

It was followed by poverty at 59%, and corruption was a distant third at 36%.

Unemployment followed at 24% in terms of the biggest challenge facing the country right now.

When asked what should be the country's top priority, 59% of youth pointed towards poverty - matching the votes for the national challenge.

It was followed by a reduction in unemployment at 58%.

Education and health were identified among the biggest priorities for the youth, with 28% seeking improved educational facilities and closely behind it at 24% better healthcare facilities. 

Other priority issues identified were the full implementation of the law at 23%, internal peace and security in the country at 22%, and improved infrastructure at 20%.

Combating corruption and injustice was lower down on the list with 10%, along with economic stability.

However, when respondents were asked which issues and priorities were important in deciding how they would vote, 87% of the youth pointed to improved education and health facilities.

It was followed by 86% by the "justice system and full implementation of the law".

Surprisingly, "a complete enforcement of Islamic laws" was third with 86% votes.

Economic stability and reduced inflation were the fourth most prioritised subject, with 85% of respondents highlighting it.

It was followed by a reduction in poverty, unemployment and food security also, with 85% of votes.

Contrary to a perception which has taken hold recently that the youth want to leave Pakistan, a substantial number of respondents, around 77% said they did not have any such desires. Among those who do want to move abroad, 26% were men and 18% women.

Most of those who want to move abroad are youngsters between the ages of 18-24 years, comprising around 27% of respondents. Those who are aged between 25-29 years, this ratio fell to 22%. And for the youth over 30, it fell further to 19%.

However, the survey coughed up another major issue: that most of the youth did not believe that the politicians representing them understood their issues or priorities.

To the question that if the youth believe leaders of political parties understand issues/priorities of the youth, a massive 60% said no.

Among those who believed that political leaders did not understand them, 57% were male respondents, while 63% were female respondents. 

Most of the respondents who believed so lived in rural areas, or around 62% of respondents. 

The segment of youth that felt the most that leaders were out of touch with them were youngsters between 18-24 years at 64%. However, it was also at 58% for the other two age groups.

The youth in the federal territory of Islamabad felt their leaders were out of touch with them the most, with 65% of respondents believing so. Punjab followed it at 61%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 60%, Sindh with 58% and Balochistan with 54%.