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Federal Voter Turnout in First Nations Reserves (2004–2011) (Research Note)


There has been little research dedicated to federal voter turnout among the Canadian Aboriginal population. One of the reasons for this is that measuring voter participation among specific groups identified by a socio-demographic feature is not an easy task. Elections Canada does not collect any information that would identify Aboriginal electors.

To date, two main approaches have been developed for estimating voter participation among Aboriginal electors. The first one is to conduct surveys and look at self-declared voting among those who identify themselves as Aboriginal people.1 One of the main advantages of this approach is that it provides individual-based information such as values and attitudes, which allows for more complex analyses on the determinants of voting. A recent study conducted by Patrick Fournier and Peter John Loewen examined these questions using Elections Canada survey data from 2004 to 2011.2

The second approach is to look at official turnout rates in reserves by identifying polling divisions that best correspond to their geographic boundaries. This aggregative analysis is ideal for identifiable geographic clusters like First Nations reserves, but it cannot account for the Aboriginal population distributed outside of reserves, including the large proportion living in urban centres.3

In 2003, Daniel Guérin examined on-reserve turnout rates using this geographic approach following the 2000 general election.4 Building on this analysis, the current research note looks at federal turnout rates on First Nations reserves for the period between the 2004 and 2011 federal general elections.

1 Elections Canada has been using oversamples of Aboriginal electors living both on and off reserve in its post-election surveys since 2004.

2 Fournier, Patrick, and Peter John Loewen. 2011. Aboriginal Electoral Participation in Canada. Ottawa: Elections Canada. See

3 As of 2006, 40 percent of the First Nations population lived on reserve. According to Statistics Canada’s most recent projections, this proportion is increasing rapidly mainly due to high birth rates.

4 See Daniel Guérin. 2003. “Aboriginal Participation in Canadian Federal Elections: Trends and Implications.” Electoral Insight (November). Ottawa: Elections Canada. See