Economic Issues Trump Environment
April 27, 2011—Toronto—With the federal election days away, a new survey commissioned by The Historica-Dominion Institute compares youth voter attitudes, issues and intentions to mature voters for an intimate look at youth engagement in Canada, which hit a low of 37% voter turnout in the last federal election.
The online survey of more than 800 youth and over 3,000 mature voters, conducted by Innovative Research Group, asked respondents 30 questions, including their likeliness to vote, top issues, voter intention and voting values. The study includes tracking from 2008 and 2006 youth election polls.
The survey found that the youth agenda mirrors that of mature voters. Over one third (35%) of young Canadians rank “my standard of living will be lower than my parents” as their top concern, followed by fears of “another economic recession” (18%) and “health care won’t be there for me when I need it” (14%). Environment (5%) and education costs (3%) lagged behind.
“It’s essential that we understand what makes young voters tick,” says Jeremy Diamond, Director of Development and Programming at The Historica-Dominion Institute. “If we better understand their views and values as a particular yet diverse group, we are more likely to be able to reach them and encourage them to have their voices heard.”
Data shows that drivers of youth turnout included knowledge, parents and voter values. The more youth know about politics, the more likely they are to vote on election day: youth who discussed politics at home are twice as likely to vote. Also twice as likely to vote are those that see voting as duty rather than a choice (45% of youth and 77% of Canadians). Youth who see voting as a choice increased 7% since the last election (from 46% in 2008 to 53% in this campaign). Language is also a key factor: 71% of young Francophones say they’ll definitely vote on election day versus 49% of Anglophone youth.
These findings are published in partnership with Maclean’s, where complete results will appear in the April 28 Election edition and on www.macleans.ca.
Other key findings include:
- A majority of young Canadians (53%) say they will definitely vote in the upcoming federal election. This is 35 percentage points lower than the national average (9-in-10 or 88%).
- 74% of youth believe that it is more important to volunteer in the community than it is to vote.
- A surprising number of youth (56%) believe politics are a good means to community change.
- A majority of youth (59%) agreed to some degree that “political parties are more interested in slinging mud than in talking to me like an adult” compared with 74% of Canadians overall.
- Social media may not play as significant a role in reaching youth as believed. Only 8% of surveyed youth used twitter regularly and a large majority (78%) reported having no twitter account.
- Ease of Voting is essential to engagement: if youth could vote online, more of them would.
The Historica-Dominion Institute is the largest charitable organization dedicated to Canadian history, identity and citizenship. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada.
Sponsors of the Democracy Project include RBC Foundation and the Aurea Foundation.