Understanding Croatian Demographics

Rate this Entry
A few days ago I read an article at hakave.org - Održana tribina HKV-a "Što je ostalo od hrvatskih stranaka?"

I applaud HKV for organizing the event because it truly is worthwhile to discuss these issues. What stuck me as being odd and disappointing was the demographics of the meeting. Where are the young people? Where are the women? Why are young people not interested in being politically active?

Presenters: 75% of presenters were males aged 60+

Audience: 80% of the audience were males aged 60+

According to Croatian population statistics, there are only 394,000 males aged 60+ and only 297,000 or 9% of Croatian voters are in the viable voting age of 60-75. My assumption is that it gets much more difficult for people aged 75+ to vote.

A = 101,000 - 3.1% - aged 16 and 17
B = 373,200 - 11.4% - aged 18 to 24
C = 616,700 - 18.8% - aged 25 to 34
D = 598,200 - 18.2% - aged 35 to 44
E = 653,000 - 19.9% - aged 45 to 54
F = 846,300 - 25.8% - aged 55 to 69
G = 714,200 - 21.7% - aged 70+

During the 2009 Presidential Election I noticed a clearly disproportionate amount of older individuals both being involved in campaigns and voting During the signature drive and phone surveys there was a clear lack of interest in politics, the election and the candidates among the younger potential voters. The social and political ennui translated into a 44% turnout for the first round and 50% turnout for the second round of the election.

Politicians will need to gain the trust of voters by showing that they understand the needs of the various segments of the electorate. Each demographic group has specific needs. One very simplified model, as an example only, could indicate:

B = Students and just graduated.
C = Young adults/families trying to develop a foundation for independent life.
D = Growing families where the needs of children are predominant.
E = Middle age were individuals now need to start supporting aging parents
F = Mature age where individuals start to prepare for retirement.
G = Retired individuals with financial concerns but also concern for grandchildren.

Two political parties with a demographic focus exist in Croatia:

What is the Croatian Voter buying?

An easy place to start understanding the consumer (voter) is to analyze what they are buying (voting for). Over the last four elections the SDP has been gaining marketshare so obviously they are doing something right.

Election success is based on many variables and the candidate profile is one of the basic variables. Understanding how the candidates differ might help identify how policy focus and strategy differs. The present day Parliament profile is the result of what voters bought in the last election. We can see that there is a clear difference in candidate profile based on classification by age. The SDP clearly has more representation with younger candidates. Coincidentally SDP is also stronger in the young retiree segment. HDZ on the other hand is over-represented in the 50-54 segment with almost 35% of the HDZ Ministers being in this age group.

There are 66 HDZ Ministers, 55 SDP Ministers and 32 Ministers from all the other smaller parties. For better comparison of the age distribution I will normalize the distribution using percentages. See below.

To further clarify the differences, between SDP and HDZ, in the Ministers in Sabor the graph below shows where HDZ is stronger and weaker in relation to SDP

Why is this age variable important? There appears to be greater political pessimism and ennui in the young voter demographic. SDP appears to try to relate to the younger voters better than any other party. A 25 year old voter will feel that a 30-40 year old candidate will understand their needs better than would a 50-60 year old candidate.

Party Loyalty: Youth are important not only for this election but for future elections. In the consumer market we are fully aware of the strength of "brand loyalty" developed in their youth. In the political market voters develop "party loyalty" which can last for life. Consider this, if you lose the vote of the youth for this election you will probably lose that vote in future elections as well. This phenomenon manifests itself clearly in the USA where voters register as either Democrats, Republicans or Independents.

For success in the next Sabor election, the Political Market Strategist will need to ensure that the party understands the dynamics which caused such low youth voter turnout. The youth segment, aged 18 to 30 is about 700,000 voters strong and therefore an important segment for every party not just for today but for tomorrow as well.

With potential 18 months until the next Sabor Election, smart strategists will start understanding the characteristics and needs of the various demographic segments now and ensure that all voter segments are represented equitably - if the party want to have mass market appeal.

Željko Zidarić
Željko Zidarić