Inspire Democracy Logo
Site Menu

Younger Canadians and Voting – A conversation about the reasons why they don’t vote (Text Version)

Download report as PDF

Download report as PowerPoint

Slide One – Research Question

  • Why are younger Canadians less likely to vote than older Canadians?
  • Why are younger Canadians more likely to be habitual non-voters than older Canadians?

    • How much is this explained by their political attitudes?
    • How much is this explained by their specific socio-demographic characteristics?
    • How much is this explained by a disconnect from politics?

Slide Two – Research Design and Data

  • Provincial Diversity Project (PDP)
    • 25-minute long questionnaire, online, winter 2014
    • 10,000 respondents
      • General population (n=6448)
      • 18–34 (n=1900)
      • Visible minority Canadians (n=1600)
    • Vote in the last federal and provincial elections
      • Allows us to examine habitual non-voting
    • Variables measuring political attitudes in relation to federal and provincial politics

Slide Three – Reported Turnout & Habitual Non-Voting

Younger Canadians report a lower level of turnout than older Canadians

Habitual non-voting more common among younger Canadians than older Canadians

The gap in habitual non-voting between the 18-24 and 35+ is 37-point large

What explains this gap in habitual non-voting?


This graph shows results for reported turnout and habitual non-voting for three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. Results for habitual non-voting, where respondents voted in neither the federal nor provincial elections, show that respondents in the two younger age groups were more likely to be habitual non-voters than those in the 35 and over age group.

Slide Four – What explains the gap in habitual non-voting?

Two-step investigation

  • On what attributes are younger and older Canadians distinct from each other?
  • Do these attributes relate to habitual non-voting?

Slide Five – Are younger and older Canadians distinct in terms of political attitudes?


This graph shows results for the question, "Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to be interested in politics?" The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. For both federal and provincial politics, results show that interest positively correlates with age, meaning that respondents in the older age groups were more likely to report an interest in both levels of politics than those in the youngest age group.

Slide Six – Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to feel close to a political party?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to feel close to a political party?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. For both federal and provincial parties, results show that a feeling of closeness positively correlates with age, meaning that older respondents were more likely to report feeling close to a political party than younger respondents.

Slide Seven – Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to feel guilty when not voting?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to feel close to a political party?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. For both federal and provincial parties, results show that a feeling of closeness positively correlates with age, meaning that older respondents were more likely to report feeling close to a political party than younger respondents.

Slide Eight – Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to express confidence in Elections Canada?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to express confidence in Elections Canada?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. Results show that confidence in Elections Canada positively correlates with age, meaning that older respondents were more likely than younger ones to express confidence in Elections Canada.

Slide Nine – Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to be recent immigrants?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to be recent immigrants?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. Results show that respondents aged 25 to 34 were slightly more likely than those aged 18 to 24 to report being recent immigrants. Those in the 35 and over age group were the least likely to report being recent immigrants.

Slide Ten – Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to be students?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to be students?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. Results show that respondents aged 18 to 24 were by far the most likely to report still being in school, while those in the older age groups were significantly less likely to report still being in school.

Slide Eleven – Are younger and older Canadians distinct in terms of “disconnect with politics”?


This graph shows results for the question, “Are younger Canadians as likely as older ones to hold opinions about political matters?” The graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. Results show that answering all questions about politics positively correlates with age, meaning that respondents in the older age groups were more likely to answer all political questions than those in the youngest age group.

Slide Twelve – Why are younger Canadians more likely to be habitual non-voters than older ones?

Is this attitude / characteristic related to habitual non-voting? Capacity to explain gap between younger and older Canadians
Political Attitudes
Interest in politics No ---
Closeness to political party Yes (-) -3
Feeling guilty if not voting Yes (-) -7
Confidence in Elections Canada Yes (-) -4
Socio-demographic characteristics
Being a recent immigrant Yes (+) -4
Being a student Yes (+) -7
Disconnect with politics
Low opinionation Yes (+) -5*
Gap (observed) (37)
Gap (potentially explained) (25)

Slide Thirteen – The propensity to provide "don’t know" responses correlates with habitual non-voting (controlling for interest in politics)

Figure 2: Predicted probability of being a habitual non-voter by number of “don't know” responses to political questions while controlling for interest in politics. This graph is segmented into three age groups: 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 and over. This graph shows that even when interest in politics is controlled for among respondents, there is still a positive correlation between an increase in the number of “don't know” responses and an increased probability of being a habitual non-voter. However, controlling for interest in politics does slightly reduce the probability of being a habitual non-voter as there is a slight decrease in the number of “don't know” responses for all three age groups.

Slide Fourteen – Conclusions

  • Younger Canadians are not only occasional abstainers, they are more likely to be habitual non-voters
  • Many are students, and students seem to vote less. Maybe it’s a sign of the “extended adolescence” argument?
  • Moreover, a larger portion of them are recent immigrants, and immigrants tend to vote less during their first decade in Canada.
  • It's also about political parties. Many younger Canadians do not seem to feel close to them. It's not clear why though.

    What is clear is that political parties have a role to play; they have to reconnect with the youth.
  • But it’s not just about the parties; it’s also because younger Canadians express less confidence in Elections Canada.

    It’s not clear if this is only temporary, but let’s make sure the autonomy and independence of our electoral system, and of those who administer it, is protected. Younger (and older) Canadians seem to be quite sensitive to that.
  • The amount of confidence in the House of Commons also relates to voting. The relationship, however, is not the one we expect. Canadians expressing a weak confidence in the House of Commons are those more likely to vote. This is interesting, even though it does not really explain why younger Canadians tend to abstain from voting.
  • Beyond Canadian institutions, it’s also about youth themselves, who struggle to articulate opinions about politics. They probably know far less than other Canadians about politics.
  • Beyond all that, many younger Canadians simply do not see voting as part of their civic duty.
    In the end, this is what most distinguishes them from older Canadians and explains in large part why they tend to abstain from voting.
    It’s time we find ways to nurture that sense of civic duty.

Slide Fifteen – Thank You

Antoine Bilodeau (Concordia)

Luc Turgeon (Ottawa)

center for the study of democratic citizenship