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Public Opinion Survey Following the November 25, 2013 By-elections

Section 3: Voting in the By-election

This section focuses on electors' experiences voting in the by-election. Factors examined in this section include methods used to vote, the accessibility of polling stations and Elections Canada's offices, and satisfaction with Elections Canada staff. Most voters cast their ballot on election day, though about one-seventh voted at an advance poll and one percent voted by mail. Satisfaction with Elections Canada staff was very high, with most voters reporting they were very satisfied, and almost all others reporting they were at least somewhat satisfied. Satisfaction was somewhat lower in the two urban ridings. A similarly high proportion of voters described voting in federal elections and by-elections as very easy, and again this rate was higher in the two Manitoba ridings.

The main reasons cited for voting included feeling a sense of duty, wanting to exercise the right to vote, habit, and the importance of participation. The main reasons cited for not voting were also non-political, including being busy at work, traveling or having other obligations, though some also cited lack of interest, apathy, and a lack of information about the by-election.

3.1 Voter Participation

Most electors surveyed (59%) reported that they voted in the by-elections – a trend at odds with the actual turnout rates for the four ridings. Age was a major indicator of stated voting participation, with likelihood of participation increasing with age. Additionally, men were somewhat likelier to indicate that they voted compared to women. Electors who reported having voted in the 2011 general election were also likelier to indicate that they voted in the by-elections. Most voters cited non-political reasons for voting and for not voting. Nearly two-thirds of non-voters indicated that they would have voted online via Elections.ca if that option had been available.

3.1.1 Voter Turnout for the November 2013 By-elections

Self-reported voter participation among survey respondents was notably higher than that which actually occurred in the by-elections (see Figure 3.1 below). As discussed in the introduction of this report (Section 1.3), this is likely the result of greater willingness among voters in participating in the survey, and a perceived pressure on non-voters to indicate that they had voted. Elections Canada reported turnout in all four ridings to be under 50 percent, and as low as 27 percent in Bourassa. However, respondents to the by-elections survey report a voter turnout of at least 20 percent higher.Footnote 6 This trend is typically found in Elections Canada's post-election evaluations.

By-election participation had a positive relationship with age. Only about two-fifths (42%) of youth reported casting a ballot in the by-election compared to three-fifths (59%) of middle-aged electors and nearly three-quarters (72%) of older electors.Footnote 7

Figure 3.1: Participation in the By-elections


Text version of "Figure 3.1: Participation in the By-elections"

Note: A total rate has not been included due to the nature of these statistics

3.1.2 Reasons for Voting

The most commonly stated reasons for voting were explicitly non-political. There was some deviation from this in the two Manitoba ridings: voters in Brandon—Souris were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in order to oppose a particular party, while voters in Provencher were somewhat more likely to vote to support a particular party (see Figure 3.2 below).

Figure 3.2: Main Reason for Voting
What was the (one) main reason you voted? Bourassa
(n=208)
Brandon—Souris
(n=273)
Provencher
(n=224)
Toronto Centre
(n=252)
Overall
(n=955)
Feel it is a duty to vote 65% 43% 39% 55% 50%
Habit / always vote 9% 13% 11% 18% 13%
Important to participate in the political process 7% 12% 18% 14% 13%
To support a particular party 8% 10% 13% 4% 9%
To support a particular candidate 7% 8% 7% 5% 7%
To oppose a particular party 3% 13% 5% 2% 6%
To oppose a particular candidate 0% 1% 4% 1% 1%
To set an example for children/others < 1% 0% 0% < 1% <1%
Don't know/Refusal 1% 2% 2% 1% 1%

Base: Voters.

Reasons for voting were more significantly related to ridings than to socio-demographic groups. The only meaningful socio-demographic trend, perhaps not surprisingly, was that older voters were more likely to cite habit (18 to 34, 7%; 35-54, 14%; 55 and up, 16%).

3.1.3 Reasons for Not Voting in the By-elections

Overall, non-voters most commonly cited personal issues (67%) as their main reasons for not voting compared to political issues (24%) or electoral process issues (11%). Only two percent cited other issues.

Issues included in the category of personal issues are: work (16%), travelling (15%), being too busy (13%), lack of information (10%), health/injury/illness (6%), family obligations (4%), and forgetting (4%). Less commonly cited were issues regarding transportation or weather (2% each).

Issues included in the political issues category include lack of interest/apathy (11%), perceived meaninglessness of the vote (5%), and issues related to candidates (5%). Less commonly cited were issues related to political parties and cynicism (2% each). One percent of non-voters or fewer cited issues related to politicians in general, campaign issues, or the electoral system.

Electoral process issues include lack of information on the voting process, like when and where to vote (4%), the polling station being too far from home (3%), registration problems (2%) or problems with access to the polls (2%). Less than one percent of non-voters said they were unable to vote due to lack of documents to prove identification when voting.

Issues included in the other category are religious beliefs (2%) and other reasons (less than 1%).

While personal issues were most commonly cited by non-voters in all four ridings, there were significant variations between ridings (see Figure 3.3 below). Personal issues were cited by four-fifths of non-voters (82%) in Toronto Centre but only about half of those in Bourassa (53%), with non-voters in the two Manitoba ridings falling in between. Non-voters in Toronto Centre were also more likely to cite electoral process issues (18%), but significantly less likely to cite political issues (10%). The opposite trend was observed in Bourassa, where over one third (36%) of non-voters cited political issues, and non-voters were least likely to cite electoral process issues.

Figure 3.3: Reasons for Not Voting in the November 25, 2013 By-elections
What is/are the main reason(s) you did not vote? Bourassa
(n=161)
Brandon—Souris
(n=126)
Provencher
(n=163)
Toronto Centre
(n=116)
Overall
(n=565)
Personal issues 53% 65% 68% 82% 67%
Political issues 36% 24% 21% 10% 24%
Electoral process issues 7% 10% 9% 18% 11%
Other issues 1% 2% 4% 0% 2%
Don't know/Refusal 6% 5% 2% 0% 3%

Note: Columns may not add up to 100% as respondents were permitted to provide as many as three replies which were then coded into one of the four categories listed above.

Base: Non-voters.

Reasons for not voting related significantly with a number of socio-demographic variables including:

3.1.4 Potential Motivators for Non-Voters

Non-voters were additionally asked if there was something that would encourage them to vote in the next federal election. Their answers were relatively evenly split between electoral process measures such as accessibility improvements (20%), political changes such as better candidates (19%), and online voting (10%). However, a significant proportion answered that they did not know what could encourage them (19%), that nothing could encourage them (17%), or that they already intended to vote in the next election (14%).

The factor which could encourage non-voters to vote varied significantly between ridings (see Figure 3.4 below). For instance, few non-voters in Brandon—Souris cited factors related directly to the electoral process, such as improved accessibility or providing more time to vote, which were common elsewhere. Brandon—Souris non-voters, as well as those in Toronto Centre, were more likely to respond that nothing would encourage them to vote. Non-voters in the two Manitoba ridings were more likely to be unsure what might motivate them to vote compared to non-voters in the two urban ridings.

Factors which could motivate non-voters to participate in the next federal election were significantly related to age and employment subgroups:

Figure 3.4: Potential Motivators for Non-Voters
Is there something that would encourage you to vote in the next federal election? Bourassa
(n=158)
Brandon—Souris
(n=126)
Provencher
(n=163)
Toronto Centre
(n=116)
Overall
(n=563)
Electoral process measures (e.g., accessibility, more advance polls, more time to vote) 25% 6% 20% 31% 20%
Political changes (e.g., better candidates, better government, more parties) 24% 23% 13% 16% 19%
I usually vote/intend to vote next time 13% 10% 17% 16% 14%
Online voting 15% 5% 13% 5% 10%
No/nothing can encourage me 12% 23% 11% 24% 17%
Don't know/Refusal 11% 33% 26% 7% 19%

Note: Respondents were not given a list of options to select from but rather asked to describe one main reason. These replies were then categorized by the Consultant into the groups listed above.

Base: Non-voters.

3.1.5 Online Voting

As shown above (in Figure 3.4), some non-voters said they would be encouraged to vote in the next general election if they could vote online. However, when all non-voters were asked if they would have voted in the by-election if an online voting option were available, a majority (62%) reported that they would have done so. These trends varied significantly between ridings (see Figure 3.5 below). Receptivity to online voting was very high in Toronto Centre, with over four-fifths willing to vote online. Non-voters in Brandon—Souris were markedly reticent, with only a slim plurality having said they would vote online compared to those who would not, and one-in-five non-voters being unsure.

Socio-demographic variables had several significant relationships with online voting:

These findings, however, are in part the result of the intersection of socio-economic variables and Internet access. Though overall 85 percent of electors reported that they use the Internet, this is related significantly to socio-demographic groups and specific ridings. Electors in Toronto Centre (94%), those aged 54 or younger (95%), those who are employed (93%), those enrolled in school (100%), and those in higher income brackets (98%), were all found to be more likely to use the Internet, and thus the fact these groups expressed greater receptivity to online voting must be understood as having been determined, at least in part, by internet accessibility.Footnote 9

Figure 3.5: Receptiveness to Online Voting among Non-Voters


Text version of "Figure 3.5: Receptiveness to Online Voting among Non-Voters"

Base: Non-voters who were aware of the by-elections.

3.1.6 Voter Turnout for the 2011 General Election

About four-fifths of all survey respondents reported having voted in the 2011 General Election. Again, compared to Elections Canada's official voting results for each riding, the survey respondents' turnout rate was higher than the actual turnout rates (see Figure 3.6 below).

Generally speaking, the same trends that were observed for participation in the by-elections were observed for 2011 General Election participation, including a positive correlation between electoral participation and age, as well as higher rates of voting among retired and employed electors compared to students and unemployed electors, and among higher-income households. Gender did not relate significantly with having voted in 2011.

Voting behaviour positively correlated with voting in the most recent general election. As shown in Figure 3.7 below, most electors indicated that they voted in both elections. Most of those that did not vote in the by-election indicated that they did vote in the previous general election. Only 14 percent of respondents failed to vote in either election. It should be noted that some respondents that did not vote in 2011 were not eligible to vote at that time (too young, not citizens etc.).

Figure 3.6: Participation in the 2011 General Election


Text version of "Figure 3.6: Participation in the 2011 General Election"

Note: A total rate has not been included due to the nature of these statistics.

Figure 3.7: Association between Voting Behaviour in the Nov. 25, 2013 By-elections and 2011 General Election
  2011 General Election
Voted
2011 General Election
Did not Vote
Nov. 25, 2013 By-elections
Voted
56% 4%
Nov. 25, 2013 By-elections
Did not Vote
27% 14%

Note: Correlation significant at the 95% level.

Base: Electors who could recall whether or not they voted in the 2011 general election (N=1,569)

3.2 Voting and Service Experience

Most voters cast their ballot at a polling station on Election Day (84% overall), though a fair portion voted at an advance poll (14%) (see Figure 3.8 below). Advance poll use was somewhat higher in Brandon—Souris. Few voters cast their ballot at a local Elections Canada office (1%) or by mail (< 1%) (Not shown in figure due to low frequency).

Advance polls were more popular among certain demographic groups:

Figure 3.8: Method of Voting


Text version of "Figure 3.8: Method of Voting"

Base: Voters.

3.2.1 Polling Station Accessibility

Nearly all voters reported that the distance to the polling station was convenient and reaching it was not difficult.Footnote 10 More voters came to the polling station from home (77%) than from work (20%) or somewhere else (3%). This trend was largely consistent across ridings, though in Brandon—Souris voters were significantly more likely to have come from work.

Among the two percent of voters who reported having difficulty reaching the polling station (n=21), the chief two obstacles were wrong information on their voter card (n=9, 41%) (i.e., wrong polling station address) and traffic-related (n=7, 32%). Only one respondent reported difficulty accessing the polling station. Other difficulties cited included insufficient indoor and outdoor signage, difficulty finding the address, the room inside the building, and physical accessibility.

Polling stations were overwhelmingly seen as accessible, with nearly all voters describing them as very (89%) or somewhat accessible (9%) (see Figure 3.9 below). It should be noted that there were no mentions of inaccessibility in Provencher. Of those respondents that mentioned their polling station was not very accessible or not accessible at all (n=13), one-third indicated that physical accessibility was the main issue that they had encountered

Figure 3.9: Building Accessibility


Text version of "Figure 3.9: Building Accessibility"

Base: Voters.

Figure 3.10: Exterior and Interior Signage at the Polling Station


Text version of "Figure 3.10: Exterior and Interior Signage at the Polling Station"

Base: Voters.

Insufficient outdoor signage was cited as more of an issue by voters than insufficient indoor signage. Overall, 79 percent of attempted voters felt that there were enough signs around the exterior of the polling station, while once inside that number rose to 92 percent. This outdoor-indoor trend held true across all ridings. Respondents in Manitoba ridings were most likely to say there was enough signage (see Figure 3.10 above).Footnote 11

Reported visibility of wheelchair accessibility signage was relatively low compared to general indoor and outdoor signage. Overall, 37 percent of respondents said they observed signs regarding wheelchair access, while 41 percent said they saw no signs. Another 23 percent were not sure. Respondents in Bourassa were significantly more likely to indicate that they had not seen wheelchair access signs than any other riding, with 49 percent (see Figure 3.11). Older voters were significantly more likely to indicate that they had seen wheelchair access signs (41%) compared to those under 55 (32%).

Figure 3.11: Wheelchair Accessibility Signage


Text version of "Figure 3.11: Wheelchair Accessibility Signage"

Base: Voters.

3.2.2 Assistance with Voting

Fewer than two percent of voters needed special assistance casting their ballot (n=14). Of those who did, just under half identified as a person with a disability. Even so, only one-in-twenty voters with a disability needed special assistance casting their ballot. Voters who required assistance generally received help from poll staff (85%) and the remainder received help from a family member or friend (15%).

3.2.3 Language of Service

The language in which voters received service at the polling station cleaved largely along provincial lines. Almost all Québec residents received French service (95%), while almost all residents in the other three ridings received English service (over 99% in Brandon—Souris and Toronto Centre, and 92% in Provencher). Provencher was the most bilingual of ridings, with 92 percent receiving English service, seven percent receiving French service, and one percent receiving service in both official languages. All ridings showed evidence that service was provided successfully in both official languages, with virtually all electors (99.7%) reporting satisfaction with their language of service.Footnote 12

3.2.4 Waiting to Vote

The waiting time for voting was deemed reasonable by virtually all voters (97%). Among attempted voters, and all other non-voters, none cited wait times as a reason they did not vote.

3.2.5 Bringing Voter Information Card to the Polls

Most voters who received a VIC brought it to the polling station to vote (85%), though there was variance between ridings. In the two urban ridings, about nine-tenths of voters who received a VIC brought it with them to vote; the same was true for a smaller, but still a high proportion of voters in Provencher (81%) and Brandon—Souris (76%). There were some variations by categorical variables:

3.2.6 Compliance with Identification Requirements

Nearly all voters (97%) reported having the required identification documents with them when they went to vote. Variance between ridings was minimal, with a slightly below average rate in Provencher (94%).Footnote 13 Most voters who did not meet identification requirements (n=31) had not brought any identification with them to vote.

Half of voters who did not comply with identification requirements had another voter vouch for their identity (n=15). To do this, voters without identification had to swear an oath in front of poll staff. One-quarter (n=8) went back home or elsewhere to find their missing documents and then returned to vote. The remaining quarter (n=8) left and did not return.

Most voters agreed that meeting the identification requirements was very easy (82%) or somewhat easy (14%); fewer than five percent considered them somewhat or very difficult. Variance between ridings was generally minimal, with about three-quarters (76%) of respondents in Bourassa responding very easy compared to rates of four-fifths or higher elsewhere (81% in Provencher, and 86% in both Brandon—Souris and Toronto Centre).Footnote 14

3.2.7 Documentation Presented to Vote

Voters used a wide variety of documents to vote, though some documents were more common than others. The five most common documents used were:

It is noteworthy that one-tenth of voters reported using their VIC as a proof of identity or address. While a VIC is generally not authorized for use as proof of identity or address, it is possible to use it as a second piece of identification at selected polling stations serving electors less likely to have multiple pieces of identification (such as student residences, long-term care facilities, seniors' residences, and First Nations reserves). The overall number of voters reporting using exclusively their VIC to vote (0.2%, n=2) is on par with the rate of voters who reported not being asked for any identification (0.4%, n=4).Footnote 16

Documents used varied between ridings (see Figure 3.12 below). Nearly half (43%) of voters in Bourassa used their health card, a rate almost three times higher than that in each of the other three ridings. Nearly all voters in the two Manitoba ridings used their driver's license to vote, compared to lower rates in the two urban ridings.

Documents used to prove identity and address varied somewhat based on socio-demographic groups. Trends included:

Figure 3.12: Document(s) Used to Prove Identity and Address to Vote
Which document(s) did you use to prove your identity and address? Bourassa
(n=206)
Brandon—Souris
(n=261)
Provencher
(n=214)
Toronto Centre
(n=249)
Overall
(n=931)
Driver's license 77% 94% 93% 73% 84%
Health card 43% 15% 14% 17% 22%
Voter information card 8% 9% 7% 16% 10%
Canadian Passport 4% 8% 5% 12% 7%
Utility bill 10% 4% 3% 10% 7%
Birth certificate 0% 7% 3% 2% 7%
Certificate of Canadian citizenship 6% 1% <1% 3% 3%
Social Insurance Number 3% 2% 4% 1% 2%
Bank/credit card statement 0% 0% <1% 3% 1%
Student ID card 0% 0% 0% 3% 1%
Hospital/medical clinic card 3% <1% 0% 0% 1%
Provincial/territorial identification card 0% <1% 0% 1% <1%
Firearm possession and Acquisition license or possession only license 0% 1% 0% 0% <1%
Employee card 0% 1% 0% <1% <1%
Credit/debit card 0% <1% 1% <1% <1%
Certificate of Indian status 0% 0% 1% 0% <1%
Income/property tax assessment notice 1% 0% <1% <1% <1%
Canadian Forces identity card 0% <1% 0% 0% <1%
Old age security card 0% 0% 1% 0% <1%
Residential lease/mortgage statement <1% 0% 0% <1% <1%
Correspondence issued by a school, college or university 0% 0% 0% <1% <1%
Fishing, trapping or hunting license 0% <1% 0% 0% <1%
Government cheque or cheque stub 0% <1% 0% 0% <1%
Attestation of Residence issued by the responsible authority of a First Nations band or reserve 0% 0% 0% <1% <1%
Other <1% <1% <1% <1% <1%
Was not asked for ID 0% <1% 1% 0% <1%
Don't know/Refusal 31% 22% 24% 21% 24%

Note: Respondents may have provided one or two replies.

Base: Voters.

3.2.8 Satisfaction with Elections Canada Staff

Nearly all voters were either very satisfied (86%) or somewhat satisfied (12%) with the services provided by Elections Canada staff (see Figure 3.13 below). Although satisfaction remained high for all ridings, there was some variation between them. About nine-tenths of voters in Manitoba were very satisfied versus about eight-tenths in the two urban ridings. Satisfaction with Elections Canada staff was largely constant across socio-demographic groups.Footnote 17

Figure 3.13: Satisfaction with Elections Canada


Text version of "Figure 3.13: Satisfaction with Elections Canada"

Base: Voters who cast their ballot at a polling station or a local Elections Canada office.

3.2.9 Ease of Voting in the By-elections

Most voters (who cast their ballot at a polling station) found it either very easy (80%) or somewhat easy (15%) to cast their vote; in no riding did more than 5% of voters report they had difficulty doing so. There was some variation between ridings in regards to how easy voting was (see Figure 3.14 below). Voters reported less ease in the two urban ridings compared to the two Manitoba ridings.

This survey observed that students were the least likely to have found it very easy to vote in the by elections (42%, compared to over 80% for all other employment status categories).

Figure 3.14: Ease of Voting in the By-elections


Text version of "Figure 3.14: Ease of Voting in the By-elections"

Base: Voters.

3.2.10 Ease of Voting in Federal Elections in General

Beyond their experiences in voting in the recent November 25, 2013 by-elections, respondents who voted were also asked about their opinions about the ease of voting in federal elections in general.Footnote 18 Voters largely agreed that it is very easy (85% overall) to cast a ballot at the polling station. There was some regional variance, with significantly higher rates of perceived ease in the two Manitoba ridings, and 5% of voters perceiving modest difficulty in Toronto Centre (see Figure 3.15 below). For the most part, these rates and trends mirror the ease voters experienced casting their ballot in the November 25, 2013 by-elections.

Figure 3.15: Ease of Voting in Federal Elections and By-elections


Text version of "Figure 3.15: Ease of Voting in Federal Elections and By-elections"

Base: Voters.

3.2.11 Perceptions of Fairness

Generally, respondents thought the election was run fairly. Notably, the majority of remaining respondents indicated that they did not know whether the election was run fairly, rather than reporting that the election was run unfairly (see Figure 3.16 below). Compared to electors in other ridings, those in Bourassa were significantly less likely to have considered the by-election as having been run very fairly. However, relatively few in Bourassa considered the by-election to have been run somewhat or very unfairly.

Figure 3.16: Fairness of Election
Thinking about the November 25th federal by-election, would you say that Elections Canada ran the election...? Bourassa
(n=397)
Brandon—Souris
(n=384)
Provencher
(n=392)
Toronto Centre
(n=399)
Overall
(n=1522)
Very fairly 48% 60% 64% 59% 58%
Somewhat fairly 33% 23% 18% 15% 22%
Somewhat unfairly 3% 2% 2% 4% 3%
Very unfairly 2% 1% 0% 1% 1%
Don't know/Refusal 15% 15% 16% 21% 17%

Base: All electors aware of the by-election.

Other findings by socio-demographic variables included (bracketed figures represent percentage responding very or somewhat fairly unless noted otherwise):


Footnote 6 Official turnout was calculated by dividing the total number of voters by the total number of voters on lists, as provided on Elections Canada's website (Elections.ca).

Footnote 7 It was also found that retirees were more likely than other employment groups to report having voted, but this relationship is likely inter-related with the age relationship.

Footnote 8 It was also found that students were most receptive to online voting, and retirees least receptive, but this relationship is likely inter-related with the age relationship.

Footnote 9 Detailed information on Internet use is available in Appendix B of this report.

Footnote 10 A small number of electors (n=8) went to a polling station but did not cast a ballot. Their experiences are included in this section's (3.2) figures on voting experience, such as building accessibility, location convenience, and language of service. They are counted as "voters" for ease of reporting.

Footnote 11 There were no significant demographic trends for this question.

Footnote 12 Due to the province-based relationship of language of service, any socio-demographic relationships were likely spurious.

Footnote 13 Compliance did not associate significantly with any socio-demographic groups.

Footnote 14 There were no significant trends in perceived ease of meeting voter ID requirements by socio-demographic groups.

Footnote 15 A driver's license (or provincial ID card) is the only piece of identification which constitutes a satisfactory form of ID in itself.

Footnote 16 All other voters who cited using their VIC as a form of identification used it in conjunction with another form of ID. The other form of ID was most commonly a driver's license, which in all four ridings would single-handedly meet identification requirements.

Footnote 17 The only demographic trend to emerge with this question was a somewhat higher rate of satisfaction among men compared to women (89% to 83%).

Footnote 18 Thus this is distinguished from the ease of voting in the November 25, 2013 by-elections question described above.