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Generational Change: Looking at Declining Youth Voter Turnout over Time

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Summary

Professor Peter Loewen (University of Toronto Mississauga) presents four graphs on turnout across generations. These can be used by researchers and other stakeholders to illustrate declining youth voter turnout in Canada and its associated trends.

The graphs illustrate two major trends. First, turnout among first-time electors has dropped over time. In 1965, about two thirds of first-time electors voted in their first election. By the mid-1980s, just over half of first-time electors were voting. By 2004, that number had fallen to just over one third. This is referred to as the generational or cohort effect. Second, as young people age, they are much less likely to take up the habit of voting than was the case for previous generations. This is referred to as a weakening of the life cycle effect.

The analysis draws upon data from each Canadian Election Study dating back to 1965. It updates turnout estimates presented in the 2008 study Youth Electoral Engagement in Canada, co-authored with Professor AndrĂ© Blais, by including estimates for the 2011 federal election.