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By Samuel Wells – IOG Research Intern
This infographic highlights statistics on participation in the electoral process during the 2015 general election among youth (defined by Elections Canada as individuals between ages 18 and 35). This election saw a large increase in voter turnout among younger generations and a seemingly newfound enthusiasm for engagement with our democratic institutions. Following the election, Elections Canada ran its National Youth Survey to collect comparative data on youth and adult voting, including voter turnout, ease of access, and reasons for not voting. The IOG studied this data and arranged this infographic in preparation for the 2019 election, for the purposes of identifying any continuing trends in youth democratic participation.
The voter turnout among youth in 2015 represented a significant increase from the previous election. However, youth voter turnout was still lower than the overall voter turnout rate. Elections Canada’s survey (and our infographic) identifies a number of possible reasons for this, including a lack of knowledge on the option to vote at advance polls, difficulty finding transportation to the polls, a lack of interest in politics, and disliking the candidates. Another potential reason for lower youth voter turnout was revealed by Caro Loutfi, Executive Director of Apathy is Boring, a Montreal-based non-profit organization whose mission is to engage youth to be active in democracy. Her insight was that “There is no question whether or not young people care. They do. The question is how they choose to engage. Many young people engage in our democracy through informal means such as volunteering, going to protests, and discussing issues on social media rather than through formal institutions, such as voting.” Apathy is Boring also identified a concerning trend, which is a lack of engagement with youth from politicians. Said Loutfi, “There is a significant difference in the manner in which elected officials engage with youth versus how they engage with the rest of society. Parliamentarians tend to believe that younger people are less likely to vote, and so they view youth engagement as being less important. This can create a vicious cycle in which youth are pushed further away from the country’s central democratic institutions.” Both of these reasons offer potential explanations for lower youth voter turnout and are certainly worth additional study. The IOG thanks Apathy is Boring for sharing its enriched qualitative data on youth democratic engagement for the purpose of this newsletter.
Samuel (Sam) Wells is a Research Intern at the Institute on Governance, and a student at the University of Ottawa where he is completing an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences degree with a specialization in Conflict Studies and Human Rights. Sam started at the IOG in May of 2019, and his work has included research on recent changes to the formal machinery of government and the use of “arm’s-length” agencies in the Canadian public sector. Prior to joining the IOG, Sam was a part-time intern on Parliament Hill.
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