In this report, professors Antoine Bilodeau and Luc Turgeon look at voter turnout among youth and visible minorities in both federal and provincial elections. They use data from the Provincial Diversity Project survey, which included close to 10,000 online interviews. 1 The authors focus in particular on “habitual non-voters” – those who systematically abstain from voting in multiple or in all elections. They find that youth are more likely to be habitual non-voters than older Canadians, and that visible minorities are more likely to be habitual non-voters than the general population. But the reasons behind habitual non-voting are not the same for each group.
Young Canadians aged 18 to 24 are 37 percentage points less likely to vote in provincial and federal elections than their older counterparts. This is a result of numerous factors (discussed below). While the model used in the study predicts 23% of 18-24 year-olds are habitual non-voters, this proportion is more than 90% among recent immigrants of that age group.
The study found that, among younger Canadians, students are more likely to be habitual non-voters than non-students. This important finding underscores the importance of reaching out to students to make sure they have the information they need to register and vote. … Continue reading »
Check out Elections Canada's voting information for students for information you can use to do this.
One of the reasons younger Canadians vote less than older Canadians seems to be that they have not yet formed opinions on many political issues. In fact, youth were significantly more likely to answer “I don't know” to opinion questions in the survey, especially those relating to politics. What's more, the number of “don't know” responses was significantly related to the likelihood of being a habitual non-voter: the larger the number of “don't knows,” the greater the likelihood of being a habitual non-voter (see figure below). This is an original finding. The lower levels of “opinionation” among youth suggest the need for stronger civic education efforts to help prepare them to participate.
The study confirmed that having a sense of civic duty is an important factor related to voting. Young people who strongly agree with the statement that they would feel guilty if they did not vote are 52 percentage points more likely to vote than those who strongly disagree. Instilling a stronger sense of civic duty through civic education initiatives is thus crucial to outreach efforts. Stakeholders and policymakers need to evaluate whether existing programs are efficient at instilling a strong sense of civic duty in the long term.
Part of the reason why younger Canadians are more likely to be habitual non-voters is that they are less likely to feel close to a political party. Among Canadians aged 18 to 24, 68% of those who feel close to a federal party report having voted, compared with 39% of those who do not feel close to a federal party – a 29 percentage point gap. Political parties are thus an important piece of the youth engagement puzzle.
The study found that only about 8% of visible minorities born in Canada are habitual non-voters. But this proportion climbs to 24% among those who are recent immigrants. These findings suggest that efforts aimed at encouraging voting among visible-minority Canadians should provide special attention to recent immigrants.
Canadians as a whole express a strong level of confidence in Elections Canada. In fact, among all age groups, it received the highest confidence ratings of the three government institutions that were examined (the other two were the House of Commons and provincial legislatures). However, younger Canadians express less confidence in Elections Canada than older Canadians, and this lower level of confidence is related to habitual non-voting. This suggests that the perceived fairness and transparency of the electoral process is essential to ensure that younger Canadians vote.
Another important reason why visible-minority Canadians are more likely to be habitual non-voters is that they are, on average, younger than the general population (the average age of visible-minority Canadians is 38 years as compared with 50 years for the rest of the population). Programs targeting younger Canadians should be built around the reality that Canadian youth come from a diverse ethnic background.
For a range of useful tools that can be used to engage new Canadians in the democratic process, check out Samara's Democracy Talks.
While socio-demographic factors help explain habitual non-voting among visible minorities, political factors are important as well. For example, having a weak sense of civic duty and not being close to a party were also associated with habitual non-voting.
For the complete analysis, read the full report. Contact us if you have any questions.
For a full list of tools and resources that can be used to engage youth of diverse backgrounds – including in the classroom – be sure to check out our'Tools' page.
Return to source of Footnote 1 Including an oversample of 1,900 youth and 1,900 visible minorities. The sample was further divided by region and province.