If there is one social demographic that played the most significant role in ensuring AAP’s second consecutive landslide victory in Delhi, it is that of women.
Not only did women electors this time nearly match their male counterparts when it came to voting, falling short by just 0.07 percentage points, they also ended up voting overwhelmingly in favour of AAP, far more than men did, disproving the long-held belief that women vote on the advice of their husbands or other male members of their family. The gender divide in voting preferences in the 2020 Delhi elections is such that it could be argued that had women not voted in this election, the AAP victory wouldn’t have been a landslide but a very narrow one.
According to the poll-eve survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS, available exclusively to The Indian Express, women were 11 percentage points more likely to have voted for AAP in this Assembly election than men, 60% to 49%.
The BJP and the Congress, on the other hand, received 8 percentage and 2 percentage point lower vote shares, respectively, among women as compared to men.
What is also significant is the fact that this wide gender gap ended up giving AAP a massive 25-percentage point lead over BJP among women voters as compared to just a 6-point lead among men.
Five years ago, in the 2015 election, the AAP’s lead over the BJP among women had been much lower at 19 percentage points, as women had voted more for the BJP than men back then and less for AAP as compared to men. Lokniti has thus far conducted surveys during all state elections held in the national capital since 1998, and never have it witnessed such a major divide in voting preferences on gender lines, not even during the years when Sheila Dikshit ruled Delhi.
So remarkable is the gender gap this time that it cuts across nearly all castes and communities, classes and age groups. Keeping the focus just on the voting pattern of castes and communities, for instance, there isn’t a single community where women voted for BJP more than men. Conversely, there is not a single community where AAP got more support from men than it did from women.
The widest gap in how men and women voted for AAP can be seen among the lower and middle caste Hindu communities. The AAP’s vote share among Dalit women, for instance, was found to be 25 percentage points more than it was among Dalit men, and among Jat, Gujjar and Yadav women (combined) 18 percentage points more.
Among Brahmin men, while AAP got 22 points less support than the BJP, among Brahmin women it trailed the BJP by only 7 percentage points.
Similarly, while among Dalit men, AAP led the BJP by 21 percentage points, among Dalit women its lead over BJP was a mammoth 65 percentage points. The case of OBC communities is even more interesting. While among men from these communities, AAP got fewer votes than the BJP, among OBC women, AAP got more and that too by a large margin.
This widely divergent voting pattern of women and men was found to cut across classes and age groups as well.
There can be three possible explanations for this unprecedented gender gap in voting preferences.
First and the most obvious, the free bus rides scheme for women announced by the AAP government in October 2019. The survey found nearly 50 per cent of the households to have availed of the scheme and women from such households were found to support AAP 42 percentage points more than the BJP.
In comparison, AAP trailed the BJP by 3 percentage points among women from households that had not availed any benefit from the scheme. Second, women, particularly homemakers, were more affected by price rise and thus punished the BJP for it. The survey does indicate that inflation and other economic matters as well as the water and electricity bill subsidies were slightly bigger voting issues for women than men.
Third, it is also possible that women perceived the BJP’s campaign on CAA and Shaheen Bagh as too aggressive. There is also a high possibility that women got put off by the violent crackdown on young protesters, many of whom were women. The survey, in fact, did find women to be far less supportive of CAA and NRC than men, and to be far more critical of the police action against protesting students than men.
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