Abysmal youth vote prompts call for a remedial strategy

Posted on November 25, 2011 in Inclusion Debates

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TheGlobeandMail.com – news/politics
Published Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Last updated Friday, Nov. 25, 2011.   Gloria Galloway, Ottawa

With flash mob videos urging youth to the polls and encouragement from the likes of comedian Rick Mercer, there was much optimism in the days leading up to this year’s federal election that young Canadians would turn up.

But the voter participation rate of people between the ages of 18 and 24 rose from 37.4 per cent in 2008 to an only slightly less abysmal 38.8 per cent in 2011. Among Canadians between the ages of 24 and 34, it actually dropped from 47.9 per cent to 45.1 per cent.

After the May vote, Elections Canada conducted a survey of 1,372 randomly selected young adults aged 18 to 34 and another non-random survey of 1,293 youth who were specially selected because they were from aboriginal or ethnic communities, lived in a rural area, had a disability, or were unemployed and not in school.

The results were released Thursday.

Who voted and who didn’t

Not surprisingly, the youth in the five subgroups that were part of the non-random survey turned out to the polls in far fewer numbers than those in the general population.

Jamie Biggar, the executive director of Leadnow.ca, which works to get youth engaged in democracy, says there were two very different subgroups of Canadian young people in the lead-up to the last election.

Among the university and college set, there was an uptick in interest and enthusiasm for the campaign, Mr. Biggar said. But unemployed, and recently employed, young people were not engaged and many don’t believe their vote matters, he said.

Why they didn’t vote

Whether it was young people in the aboriginal or ethnic communities, the disabled, the rural youth or the unemployed, all told the Elections Canada survey that they just weren’t interested in voting.

But many of the respondents also cited personal circumstances. They were too busy, they said, with work, school or family. Many said they didn’t know anything about the parties, the candidates or the issues. Some said they did not receive their voter information cards.

And some said they had no way of getting to the polling station.

What needs to be done between now and 2015

Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer, says it is clear that there needs to be a national strategy targeting youth voters.

“As a civil society, we need to come together and determine concrete action that could be taken in a co-ordinated matter to seek to engage and re-engage youth in their democracy,” he said. Addressing issues of convenience alone will not do it, he said.

“What is it that makes Canadians interested in politics?” Mr. Mayrand asked. “What is it that turns them off from time to time? And what is it that we can do about changing the culture around this?”

< http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/abysmal-youth-vote-prompts-call-for-a-remedial-strategy/article2248509/ >

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One Response to “Abysmal youth vote prompts call for a remedial strategy”

  1. Heather McAlister says:

    Although the media presents amusing forms of endorsements to vote, through the use of flash mob videos and the ever funny Rick Mercer, it is evident that there is a need for the leaders of the political parties themselves to address the younger generation. In my opinion, interest in politics and subsequent voter participation will only occur when party candidates speak to issues that directly affect young Canadians. Some of these issues might include addressing rising tuition fees at post-secondary institutions including potential forgiveness of student loans. In additon, this populace is interested in issues surrounding employment opportunities as well as pay equity between the genders. Overall, I believe young Canadians are interested in transformative policies which will truly change the political and social climate in Canada. This group’s interest in real change is fueled by their passion for justice, an aspect that is often missing from the older generation, who tend to accept the status quo.
    With this in mind, I am not surprised that young adults representing the subgroup of those surveyed were the group who voted the least. They make up the most disenfranchised groups in society whose needs are seldom addressed in mainstream politics. Why would they consider endorsing a candidate if they are not speaking about the issues that truly impact their cirumstances?
    Personally, this is the reason why I connected with the message provoked by Jack Layton. He truly believed in the power of young Canadians, their ability to change the country, and discussed the issues concerning them. As a young adult, this empowerment sparked my belief that an individual vote can make a difference.


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