Inspire Democracy Logo
Site Menu

Voter Turnout among Younger Canadians and Visible Minority Canadians: Evidence from the Provincial Diversity Project

Share this report   Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn

2. The Political Profile of Younger Canadians and Visible Minority Canadians

Younger and older Canadians and visible minority Canadians and other Canadians differ, as expected, in terms of their socio-economic profiles. In addition, their different propensity to vote could also reflect different ways of relating to politics. The report now presents the profile of these segments of the Canadian population in relation to their interest in politics, closeness to political parties, sense of political efficacy, opinions with regards to the importance of voting and the perception that their vote can make a difference. The following sections also compare the opinions of the different groups in terms of confidence in public institutions, attachment to Canada and their province, as well as the perceived impact of governments on their lives. Finally, the report also looks at opinions with regards to social trust and the extent to which Canadians discussed politics at home during their youth. Table 3 presents the distribution of political attitudes across the different groups.

Table 3. Political Attitudes among Younger Canadians and Visible Minority Canadians
  Age-Groups Visible Minority Status
  18-24 25-34 35+ Visible minority Canadians Other Canadians
Interest in Politics (mean score, 0-10)
Federal politics 4.8 5.6*** 6.7*** 6.0 6.4***
Provincial politics 5.1 5.8*** 7.0*** 6.1 6.8***
Closeness to a political party (%)
Federal politics 64 71** 81*** 70 80***
Provincial politics 62 69* 79*** 69 78***
Politics is too complicated (% strongly agree/agree)
Federal politics 68 58*** 45*** 62 46***
Provincial politics 65 53*** 42*** 60 42***
People like me have not much say in politics (% strongly agree/agree)
Federal politics 73 74 76 72 76**
Provincial politics 67 67 69 69 69
I would feel guilty if I did not vote (% strongly agree/agree)
Federal election 48 55* 74*** 65 71
Provincial election 50 55 75*** 67 71
I feel that my vote can make a difference
 (% strongly agree/agree) 64 63 77*** 74 74
Political Discussion at Home During Childhood
(mean score, 0-1) .38 .40 .47*** .44 .45
Confidence in public institutions (mean score, 0-10)
House of Commons 5.2 5.0 5.0 5.9 4.9**
Provincial legislature 5.3 5.1 5.3 6.0 5.1***
Elections Canada 5.5 5.9** 6.3*** 6.6 6.1***
Attachments (mean score, 0-10)
Canada 7.6 7.7 8.1*** 8.1 8.0
Province 7.3 7.3 7.9*** 7.4 7.8***
Impact of governments (mean score, 0-10)
Federal 6.7 7.0 7.6*** 7.3 7.5
Province 6.8 7.4*** 8.0*** 7.5 7.8***
Social Trust
(% most people can be trusted) 30 31 44*** 33 43***
Minimum n= 711 1918 4741 1886 5169

Source: Provincial Diversity Project (2014).
Difference with 18-24 or visible minorities: ***: p<.001; **: p<.01; *: p<.05.

2.1 Political Attitudes of Younger Canadians

For a number of political attitudes, Table 3 reports important differences between younger and older Canadians. First, Canadians aged 35 years and older are more likely to be interested in politics than younger Canadians. The mean scores in terms of interest in federal politics on a scale between 0 (not interested) and 10 (very interested) are 4.8 for Canadians aged between 18 and 24, 5.6 for Canadians aged between 25 and 34 and 6.7 for those over 35. Comparable gaps are observed for interest in provincial politics.

Younger Canadians are also less likely to feel close to a political party. For federal politics, the percentage of Canadians who feel close to a political party is 64% for the 18-24 age group, 71% for the 25-34 age group, and 81% for those over 35. For provincial politics, the percentage of Canadians who feel close to a political party is 62% for the 18-24 cohort, 69% for the 25-34 cohort, and 79% for those over 35.

A larger proportion of younger Canadians than older ones appear to perceive politics as too complicated. When asked whether they agreed with the statement “Sometimes I feel federal politics is too complicated for people like me”, 68% of Canadians aged 18 to 24 report that they either strongly agree or agree in comparison to 58% of those aged 25 to 34 and 45% of those aged 35 and older. Once again, similar differences are observed for provincial politics. Interestingly, however, younger Canadians are as likely as older ones to believe that they have not much say in federal or provincial politics.

Another major difference in the political attitudes of younger and older Canadians relates to the feeling of guilt about not voting. Younger Canadians are substantially less likely than older Canadians to report that they would feel guilty if they did not vote in either a federal or provincial election. The percentage of Canadians who would feel guilty if they didn't vote at a federal election is 48% for those aged 18 to 24, 55% for those aged 25 to 34, and 74% for those over 35. The same pattern holds for feeling guilty about not voting in provincial elections. This finding is consistent with Blais (2000) who observes that the sense of duty to vote is weaker among younger Canadians.

The differences between younger and older Canadians are far more limited however when considering the perception that one's vote can make a difference. While 77% of Canadians aged 35 years and older agree with the statement, the proportions are 64% and 63% respectively for the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 age groups.

There are also significant differences between younger and older Canadians in terms of their level of confidence in Elections Canada. Canadians aged 35 years and older and those between the ages of 25 and 34 express higher levels of confidence in Elections Canada than those aged 18 to 24 (6.3 and 5.9 vs. 5.5). No differences are observed across the age groups for the levels of confidence in the House of Commons and the provincial legislature. As a side note, it is worth emphasizing that every age group exhibits higher confidence in Elections Canada than in either the House of Commons or the legislature of their province.

Younger Canadians report in a smaller proportion than older ones that they discussed politics at home with their parents during their youth. Younger Canadians, however, also appear somewhat different from older ones in terms of attachment to Canada and their province and the perceived impact of federal and provincial governments. Canadians aged 35 years and older are more attached to both orders of government and also perceived a greater impact of both orders of government than younger Canadians. Finally, Canadians aged 35 and older are more likely to express the view that most people can be trusted.

On most of the political attitudes examined, younger Canadians thus appear different than older Canadians; for some attitudes, the differences are smaller while for others they are larger. Likely, these differences in political attitudes contribute to explaining why younger Canadians vote less than older Canadians. Section 3 will examine whether these factors do relate to the propensity to vote in federal and provincial elections.

2.2 Political Attitudes of Visible Minority Canadians

In many ways, visible minority Canadians also differ from other Canadians on many political attitudes. Like younger Canadians, they tend to exhibit a weaker psychological engagement with politics than other Canadians. Visible minorities appear somewhat less interested in politics than other Canadians, whether it is in federal politics (6.0 vs. 6.4) or in provincial politics (6.1 vs. 6.8). Visible minorities are also less likely than other Canadians to feel close to a political party (70% vs. 80% at the federal level, and 69% vs. 78% at the provincial level). Moreover, visible minority Canadians are more likely than other Canadians to express the opinion that politics is too complicated for them (62% vs. 46% at the federal level, and 60% vs. 42% at the provincial level).

In contrast to younger Canadians, however, visible minorities are not less likely than other Canadians to report that they would feel guilty if they did not vote in federal or provincial elections. Although a gap exists between visible minorities and other Canadians with respect to the guilt about non-voting, the differences are not statistically significant. Similarly, visible minority Canadians and other Canadians are as likely to report that their vote can make a difference.

Visible minorities are distinct from younger Canadians with regards to confidence in public institutions. For all three institutions, visible minorities express higher levels of confidence than other Canadians (6.6 vs. 6.1 for Elections Canada; 5.9 vs. 4.9 for the House of Commons; and 6.0 vs. 5.1 for the provincial legislature).

Interestingly, while visible minority Canadians do not differ from other Canadians when it comes to attachment to Canada or the perceived impact of the federal government on their lives, they express a weaker attachment to their province and perceive a lesser impact for the provincial government. Finally, visible minority Canadians are less likely than other Canadians to express the view that most people can be trusted.

The political attitudes of visible minorities and other Canadians are likely to play a key role in accounting for their different propensity to vote. Whether it is the lower levels of interest in politics, the lower propensity to feel close to a party, the greater perception that politics is too complicated, these all represent potential candidates for explaining visible minorities' weaker propensity to vote.