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Public Opinion Survey Following the October 24, 2016, By-election in the Medicine Hat–Cardston–Warner Riding

Voting and Voter Participation

This section explores issues related to voting and the methods used for voting in the October 24, 2016, by-election.

The key "did you vote" issue was dealt with using a split sample approach, where two different methods of asking about this were used—one with each half of the sample.

The objective was to observe whether there was any difference between Elections Canada's standard question and an alternate question that was specifically designed to reduce social desirability bias.

Most Claim to Have Voted in By-election

When the results for each question were combined, we observed that seven in ten respondents (71%) who were aware of the by-election claimed to have voted, with 29% saying they did not vote.

When half of the respondents who were aware of the by-election were asked if they voted, using Elections Canada's standard question, almost three quarters (74%) said they did. Only 26% said they did not vote.

Voted in By-election

Voted in By-election
Text description of "Voted in By-election"

When using Elections Canada's standard question, the likelihood of voting increased with age and education (66% of electors who completed high school or less vs. 82% of university-educated electors). Additionally, electors not in the workforce (80%) were more likely to say they voted in the by-election than those who were employed at the time of the survey (70%).

When the other half of respondents who were aware of the by-election were asked about statements that best described their voting in the by-election, 68% said they were sure they had voted in the election. In addition, 14% said that they usually vote but did not in this election, while 6% said they thought about voting but did not. Finally, 11% said outright that they did not vote in the election this time. Even if fewer reported having voted when asked this alternate question, the difference is not statistically significant.

The likelihood of respondents who were aware of the by-election saying they were sure they had voted in the election increased with age (from 35% for electors under 25 years of age to 82% for those aged 55 and older) and education (from 61% for those with a high school education or less to 76% for university-educated electors).

Voted in By-election

Voted in By-election
Text description of "Voted in By-election"

Everyday Life and Health Reasons Are Main Reasons for Not Voting

Of those who were aware of the by-election but did not vote, 43% said they did not vote due to everyday life or health reasons. Almost one quarter (22%) pointed to political reasons for not voting. Only 3% said they did not vote due to electoral process–related reasons.

Main Reasons for Not Voting

Main Reasons for Not Voting
Text description of "Main Reasons for Not Voting"

Women who were aware of the by-election but did not vote were more likely to point to everyday life or health reasons (54%) as the reason for not voting. Men who were aware of the by-election were more apt to say they did not vote for political reasons (36%).

The table below provides the full range of responses.

Reasons for Not Voting %
Everyday life or health reasons
Too busy 22%
Out of town 14%
Illness or disability 7%
Political reasons
Not interested in politics 10%
Did not like candidates/parties 5%
Lack of information about campaign issues and parties' positions 4%
Felt voting would not make a difference 2%
Did not know who to vote for 1%
Electoral process–related reasons
Issues with voter information card 2%
Lack of information about the voting process 1%
Transportation problem / polling station too far <1%
Could not prove identity or address 0%
Lineups were too long 0%
Not on voters list 0%
All other reasons
Forgot to vote 10%
Religious or other beliefs 6%
Other reason 13%

Advance Polling Station—Most Recognized Alternative Way to Vote

When asked whether a number of different methods were possible for voting in federal elections, virtually everyone (91%) claimed to be aware that Canadians could vote at advance polling stations. Awareness was much lower for other voting methods. Roughly three in five (59%) said that voters could vote at an Elections Canada office, while 31% said that voters could vote by mail. Conversely, 9% said that voting at advance polls was not possible, 36% said it was not possible to vote at the local Elections Canada office, and 65% said voting by mail was not possible.

Knowledge of Voting Methods

Knowledge of Voting Methods
Text description of "Knowledge of Voting Methods"

The likelihood of knowing that you can vote at an advance polling station increased with age (from 73% among 18- to 24-year-olds to 97% among those aged 55 and older) and was higher among university-educated respondents (98% compared to 88% of electors with some post-secondary education and 90% among those with high school or less). The likelihood of knowing that you can vote at an Elections Canada office was higher among those with high school or less (63%) than electors with some post-secondary education (53%). There were no statistically significant differences when it came to voting by mail.

Large Majority Used Polling Stations to Vote

When asked about which method they used to vote in the October 24, 2016, by-election, 78% of those who voted said they used the polling stations on election day. However, one in five (19%) said they used advance polling stations. Only 3% said they voted at an Elections Canada office or at home.

Voters under 25 years of age were the most likely (92%) to have voted at a polling station on election day, while those aged 55 and older were the least likely (72%) to have voted this way.

Methods Used to Vote

Methods Used to Vote
Text description of "Methods Used to Vote"