Hot! Elections Canada takes aim at disengaged young Canadians

OttawaCitizen.com – news/elections
January 29, 2011.    By Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen

Elections Canada is commissioning a major new national survey as it searches for new ways to encourage disengaged young Canadians to vote.

With an estimated cost between $100,000 and $250,000, the project will survey 2,500 people between the ages of 18 and 34 who are disabled, unemployed or aboriginal, live in rural areas, or speak neither English nor French as a first language.

It’s all part of a “youth research action plan” Elections Canada hopes will help it reach out to a segment of the population that’s increasingly tuning out electoral politics.

Only 37.4 per cent of voters ages 18 to 24 cast ballots in the 2008 federal election. Turnout by young voters has been dropping steadily since the 1960s, when about seven in 10 of those eligible to vote for the first time went to the polls.

The drop-off in youth participation is largely responsible for the overall decline in Canadian voter turnout over the past two decades. Just 58.8 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 — a record low.

While young voters are more likely to vote as they get older, “They are beginning at such a low level of participation that overall turnout can only be expected to decline,” says a 2009 paper commissioned by Elections Canada, the agency that conducts federal elections and referendums.

“That’s a major concern,” says Elections Canada spokesman John Enright. “Surveys are showing us that if we don’t capture them and get them interested and engaged at their first opportunity to vote, we’ve likely lost them forever. They’re going to remain disengaged throughout their lives.”

It’s possible the survey results could influence how Elections Canada communicates its message during the next election campaign, Enright says.

“If there’s low-hanging fruit, we’ll act on it immediately. But I suspect some of it is going to require a little bit more tweaking of our product to finesse that messaging.”

The reasons for the drop in youth voting remain elusive.

“We do not know much about the causes of this decline,” admits the 2009 paper by political scientists Andre Blais and Peter Loewen.

The new survey is part of Elections Canada’s effort to better understand those causes. Bidders have until Jan. 28 to submit proposals, with a final report expected by June.

Elections Canada identified youth engagement as a key priority in its 2008-13 strategic plan. It commissioned other youth surveys after the 2008 election that are nearing completion and will be published in the next month or two.

“It’s an ongoing process to try to understand what is making that group tick and how we can reach them better with our communications,” Enright says.

Among other things, the new survey will try to identify barriers to participation and determine the values, attitudes and behavioural factors linked to voting or non-voting.

It also hopes to identify what Elections Canada calls “possible interveners” —musicians, activists, social media sites — that young Canadians are listening to, then use those channels to deliver its message.

“If they’re telling us that they’re not hearing us,” Enright says, “who are they hearing? Is it best to reach them through some sort of social media? Or is it best to continue to put our efforts and our moneys into traditional advertising campaigns?”

Ottawa Citizen    < http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Elections+Canada+takes+disengaged+young+Canadians/4191486/story.html >

2 Comments

  1. Amanda L. Powell

    Election Canada — consider “Mandatory Voting.” Make voting a ”duty” to your Canada. A small task every four (4) years. After all our soldiers have died for democracy, for our right to vote. We should respect that. I know we want to change our Electoral System but 40% didn’t vote. This creates an unknown variable of the 40%. Let’s solve this unknown variable before we make any changes. You can come up with a lot of creative ideas to make young people engaged but the most cost-effective and efficient way is to Make Voting Mandatory. A small task every four (4) years should not be too much to ask for this wonderful country. Someone on my FB pointed out that Voting should be made a Duty and a Right but Not a Freedom. Had Canada made Voting Mandatory in 1925 like Australia, Mandatory Voting would already be part of our culture. Education on Voting should start in school at an early age. Australia has “compulsory voting”. ” The 1925 federal election was the first to be held under compulsory voting; the turnout figure climbed to 91.4 per cent, an increase of 32 percentage points on the previous election.” …”the Electoral Act[9] says that “It shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election.” ..”About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections. People in this situation are asked to explain their failure to vote. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a relatively small fine is imposed ($20),[7] and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing.” See Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wi​ki/Australian_electoral_sy​stem
    My FB friend wrote: “Thanks for pointing this out Amanda. .. They have one thing right however and that’s compulsory voting. The $20 fine is nothing and their turnout rate is crazy. Plus, you could put an option on the top of the ballot that says ‘none’ (voters who don’t care apparently always select the top candidate in a mandatory system) so people have the option to protest the selection of politicians they can vote for.”
    Thank you for your consideration of Mandatory Voting. I placed the idea of Mandatory Voting on Facebook on May 13, 2011, and I received over 78 comments. I can send these to you if you like. Nice project ! All the best !

  2. I’m imrepssed you should think of something like that

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