PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s Generation Z will emerge as potential political kingmakers if the voting age is lowered to 18 from 21.

Often referring to those born between the late 1990s and 2010, Gen Z currently makes up 26% of Malaysia’s population, global consumer research firm Nielsen said in a report.

GE14 in 2018 saw Generation Y voters – those born between the 1980s and 2000 – stamping their mark as a valuable votebank that made up nearly half the electorate.

With Gen Z now poised to enter the fray, GE15 may see younger voters firmly holding the keys to victory for Pakatan Harapan or the Opposition.

The oldest Gen Z is now 24 years old, and a rough calculation based on the Statistics Department’s figures indicate that up to 1.5 million voters from Gen Z could be added to the electoral roll if 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are allowed to cast their ballots.

There were 14.9 million registered voters in GE14.

“Malaysia’s true digital natives, Gen Z, is the generation that grew up with the Internet,” Nielsen said in its report titled “Understanding Malaysia’s Gen Z and how to reach them” (see graphic).

There are three older age groups – Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.

There are various definitions on the age range for the various generations.

However, Gen X is commonly defined as those born between 1960 and 1979, while the Baby Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964.

The Silent Generation are often defined as those born in 1945 and before.

Political analysts have said that it is still too early to tell how Gen Z will vote in GE15.

However, one general characteristic of Gen Z, which marks them out from other age groups, is their heavy use and mastery of digital technology including social media, signalling how the battle for hearts and minds at the next poll will be increasingly waged online.

The Nielsen report said Internet penetration among Malaysia’s Gen Z was at 98%, while 99% owned smartphones.

“This is a generation that has a distinct ability to process and cut through large amounts of information, and seamlessly navigate between the online and offline worlds,” it stated.

A Bill to amend Article 119 of the Federal Constitution was tabled by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman last Thursday.

Subsequently, Opposition MPs said that they would support lowering the voting age to 18 if it comes with automatic registration of voters.

Pakatan Harapan on Monday agreed with the Opposition’s proposals.

Three Constitutional amendments will now be tabled as a result – to lower the voting age to 18, introduce automatic voter registration and reducing the age of candidacy to 18.