This report reviewed the relevant literature regarding how candidates and political parties engage and mobilize youth and identified three main challenges: youth are hard to contact, they have weak party attachments, and they may not be interested in political activity or their interests, priorities and evalutions may be seen to be different from those of older age groups. Following an examination of the case studies, including Canada and international examples, the review highlighted notable practices in terms of youth engagement and mobilization. The review concluded with points of consideration for the Canadian context and suggested areas for future research.
The literature does not offer a thorough understanding of how parties engage youth between elections. The effectiveness of existing youth engagement strategies is even less well understood. However, research demonstrates that mobilization tactics can be effective in reaching young voters – the debate arises over the precise messaging used.
In summary, several of the challenges surrounding youth engagement and mobilization can be addressed. This can, however, comes with a caveat. As discussed at the outset of this review, political parties have multiple functions that contend for limited party resources – a triage that prioritizes electoral success. Admittedly, it is not a realistic expectation for political parties to forego such electoral priorities to fulfill their other functions. Yet, this review suggests there is not necessarily a trade-off between election-driven behaviour and behaviour that fulfills parties' other functions as public utilities. Greater inclusion and participation by youth not only enhances Canada's democratic health – it can be a part of a successful long-term electoral strategy for a party.