Disconnect is primary reason young Canadians don’t vote: survey

Only 42 per cent of aboriginal youth vote


Postmedia News

OTTAWA — Elections Canada released the results of a study Thursday that suggests young Canadians don’t vote because politicians aren’t able to connect to the issues that matter to them.

According to results of the poll, 15 per cent of the people asked who didn’t vote said none of the political parties is able to speak to topics that mattered to them. By comparison, only five per cent of the youth who did vote said they felt they weren’t being represented.

The survey, conducted by R.A. Malatest & Associates for the national election body, asked Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 why they did — or didn’t — vote in the spring federal election.

Political knowledge and interest were major factors the study suggests affect the likelihood someone will vote. Only 28 per cent of youth who aren’t interested in politics voted, compared to 88 per cent who said they were interested in politics and did vote.

The survey’s results found three main points that prevent young people from voting: because they cannot, because they do not want to and because nobody asked them to.

The authors of the paper suggest a number of possible solutions, including an increased information drive on how, where and when to vote; a survey into methods for distributing voter information beyond mailed postcards; placing more emphasis on other ways of voting, such as absentee and mail-in ballots; putting polls in locations where youth feel more comfortable; and making sure that voting booths are child-friendly, so parents are more likely to vote.

The study also selected several specific groups of youth — aboriginals, the disabled, unemployed, ethnic and youth in rural areas — to determine why they said they voted in lower numbers than the general population.

In the case of the unemployed and aboriginals, which includes First Nations and Inuit groups, only 42 per cent of those surveyed said they voted. About 55 per cent of those with disabilities and 61 per cent of ethnic youth asked said they voted.

The selected groups voted at a much lower rate than the average of the surveyed — 74 per cent, who said they went to the polls. (The study explains that the difference between those that said they voted and those who actually did is a common discrepancy in voting surveys. The authors say the phenomenon is consistent through voting surveys when compared to actual voter turnout data.)

The study findings suggest that of the youth subgroups selected, different factors were at play when it came to who was least likely to vote.

Of the aboriginal youth, living on a reserve was the biggest factor, while ethnic youth were less likely to vote if they used television as their primary source for information. Rural and disabled youth were more likely to be non-voters if they weren’t politically knowledgeable.

The telephone poll was conducted after the May 2 election and sampled 1,372 youth.

The survey has a margin of error of 2.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

For the interviews of the subgroup, 1,293 youth were non-randomly surveyed. The study says the results of the sub-groups may not be a national representation.

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