Lok Sabha poll: The mystery of the absent Indian voter in 2024, in charts

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Pin the blame on the scorching heat or political discontent, the Indian voters’ reluctance to exercise their franchise made headlines throughout the recently concluded Lok Sabha election. At one point, the Election Commission of India even spoke of the apathy of urban voters in particular. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh continued their trend of lower voter turnouts than the national average. Meanwhile, there were some silver linings: the gender gap in voting, for instance, was nearly zero for the second consecutive time.

Disengaged voters

The overall national voter turnout, excluding postal ballots, was 65.8% this year. This is based on provisional data, with the comparable figure in 2019 being 67.2%. A little fewer than half of the constituencies saw a higher turnout than the national average. However, about two in every three seats saw a decline. Nagaland, Outer Manipur, and some constituencies in Madhya Pradesh saw drastic declines, while a massive positive shift was observed in Jammu and Kashmir.

Turning tally?

Political scientists are divided over the common belief that lower voter turnouts signal pro-incumbency, and higher turnouts signal a desire for change. Elements of this theory were visible in 2024. The ruling National Democratic Alliance’s success rate in retaining seats that it had won in 2019 was higher in seats that saw a decline in turnout, and the same was true for Opposition parties as well. However, overall, the NDA had a slight edge among seats where turnout increased.

Demographic display

Capturing voters’ participation from a demographic lens reveals more pronounced disengagement among city dwellers than voters in rural India. The turnout decreased in 76% of urban constituencies and 64% of rural constituencies. The median voter turnout in such seats was 62% and 64%, respectively.

Women voters’ league

Overall, just 10 states and Union territories saw an increase in voter turnout as compared with 2019. But when it comes to women’s turnout, 13 states and UTs saw an increase. Women out-voted men in 19 states and UTs. However, this is a decline since 2019, when it was true for as many as 23 states. That year, the gender gap in turnouts had closed for the first time.

Pecking order

The voter turnout in the world’s largest democracy does not stack up well against the largest developed and developing nations; its rank has slid further this year. Among G20 nations, Brazil and Indonesia are ahead of India in terms of voter turnout in their latest election. All eyes will be on the UK and France, which are set to vote in the next few weeks.

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