June 21, 2024 – A significant portion of the electorate in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) consists of Gen Z, with three out of ten likely voters (32.1%) aged between 17 and 29, according to a recent survey by IAG Research. Digital natives and tech-savvy, this young cohort is poised to influence the region's upcoming parliamentary elections in 2025.


The voting age in the Philippines is 18. Individuals who were 17 during the survey period but will reach the voting age of 18 by election day, and who intend to register and vote, were included in the survey count.


The survey, conducted from April 29 to May 14, 2024, included 3,072 respondents across BARMM and has confidence level of 99% and margin of error (confidence interval) of 1.77%. Likely voters are defined as registered voters who intend to vote in the next regional parliamentary elections. According to the Commission on Elections, BARMM had 2.7 million registered voters for the May 9, 2022 elections, with 2.09 million actually voting.


Millennials (born between 1982 and 1994) make up 24.8% of respondents, having grown up with regional autonomy and technological advancements. Gen X (born between 1965 and 1981) constitutes 30.5% of likely voters, many of whom experienced martial law and the subsequent restoration of democracy in the Philippines. This demographic may have participated in significant historical events such as the People Power Revolution of 1986 and the ongoing struggle for Muslim autonomy.


Adherents of Islam Account for 91% of All Likely Voters


The survey reveals that 91.4% of likely voters in BARMM are Muslim. Roman Catholics are the second-largest religious group at 4.4%, with the highest concentrations in Cotabato City (27.1%) and Basilan (15.6%). Other Christian denominations constitute 20% of likely voters in Maguindanao del Norte. The Iglesia ni Cristo, which is said to vote as a bloc, has minimal presence in BARMM (0.1%).


Most Likely Voters Are Meranaw, Maguindanaon or Tausug


Meranaw, Maguindanaon and Tausug are the three largest ethnic groups among likely voters in BARMM, representing 26%, 25.1%, and 21.1%, respectively. These groups are predominantly Muslim. Non-Muslim ethnic groups include the indigenous Teduray/Lambangian (3.2%) and Visayan/Cebuano (2.4%).


Most Voters Are Poor


The survey indicates a high prevalence of poverty among likely voters, with 83.4% living below the government's official poverty threshold. Their household income is less than PhP 9,100 (US$155) per month. Maguindanao del Sur has the highest concentration of poor likely voters at 93.5%. Middle-class and wealthy voters are a distinct minority, at 3.4% and less than 1%, respectively.


While the poverty rate in BARMM has decreased from 55.9% in 2018 to 39.4% in 2021, it remains the highest in the Philippines at 34.8% in the first half of 2023, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).


The IAG Research survey underscores the importance of addressing the needs and concerns of a young, predominantly Muslim, and economically disadvantaged electorate in BARMM. As the region prepares for its 2025 parliamentary elections, understanding these demographics will be crucial for political parties and policymakers aiming to engage effectively with the voters.