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National Youth Survey Report

SECTION 4: KEY SUBGROUPS ‑ BARRIERS AND INFLUENCERS TO ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION

This section explores rates of participation in the May 2011 general election and the barriers and influencers to participation among subgroups ‑ namely, Aboriginal, ethnocultural, unemployed and rural youth as well as youth with disabilities. All results in this section are based on unweighted data from both the random and the purposive samples. The analysis begins by providing an overview of general voting patterns of the subgroups. Then multivariate regression models examine the key drivers influencing voting behaviour in the 2011 general election within each subgroup.

4.1 Voting Behaviour among Subgroups

Compared to the national random sample, the purposive sample included a greater proportion of respondents who reported not voting in the 2011 general election. Voting was significantly lower for Aboriginal, ethnocultural and unemployed youth as well as youth with disabilities (Table 4‑1). Voting patterns for rural youth were more similar to the national random sample.

Table 4‑1: Electoral Participation by Subgroup
  Total National Sample Aboriginal Ethno-cultural Unemployed Youth with Disabilities Rural
Voted 1,389 (74%) 120 (42%) 279 (61%) 102 (42%) 84 (55%) 371 (67%)
Did not vote 366 (26%) 163 (58%) 179 (39%) 139 (58%) 69 (45%) 181 (33%)

Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

As highlighted in Chart 4‑1, when examining Aboriginal electoral participation, the following patterns emerged:

Chart 4‑1: Participation in the May 2011 General Election by Aboriginal Subgroup

Participation in the May 2011 General Election by Aboriginal Subgroup
Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Text description of Chart 4-1

4.2 Reasons for Voting or Not Voting

When asked their main reason for voting or not voting, fewer subgroup voters than in the national random sample said they voted for reasons relating to general positive attitudes toward politics and democracy, such as "voting is a civic duty" (Table 4‑2). When compared to the national random sample, slightly more voters in the Aboriginal, ethnocultural, unemployed subgroups, as well as the subgroup for voters with disabilities, voted to support or oppose a political party.

Table 4‑2: Reasons for Voting
Reasons for Voting National Average Aboriginal Ethno-cultural Unemployed Youth with Disabilities Rural
Number (%) of voters 1,389 (74%) 120 (42%) 279 (61%) 102 (42%) 84 (55%) 371 (67%)
General Attitudes toward Politics and Democracy 70% 53% 56% 66% 52% 65%
It is a civic duty to vote 26% 12% 22% 27% 13% 21%
Because I think it is important to vote 18% 22% 15% 16% 20% 17%
It allows me to express my opinions/views 16% 8% 13% 14% 10% 17%
I can/It is my right 4% 6% 3% 5% 6% 5%
Out of habit (I always vote) 3% 6% 1% 3% 2% 4%
It's important that youth vote 1% 0 <1% <1% 1% <1%
My vote counts 1% 0 1% 1% 0% <1%
Political Influencers 3% 7% 4% 2% 2% 5%
Because a friend, family member, or other person encouraged me to vote 3% 7% 4% 2% 2% 5%
Interest in Politics 26% 35% 37% 30% 34% 29%
To support or oppose a political party 16% 21% 22% 18% 20% 18%
I want to/I want change 5% 8% 8% 5% 7% 4%
To support or oppose a specific candidate 4% 6% 5% 6% 7% 6%
I care about different issues 1% 1% 1% 1% 0 1%
Other 1% 1% <1% 1% 1% >1%

Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Subgroup non-voters were more likely to provide access barriers as their main reason for not voting – in particular, process knowledge and administrative barriers (Table 4‑3).

Table 4‑3: Reasons for Not Voting
Reasons for Not Voting National Average Aboriginal Ethno-cultural Unemployed Youth with Disabilities Rural
Motivation Factors 33% 31% 30% 34% 35% 27%
Attitudes 9% 7% 12% 13% 12% 8%
My vote wouldn't make any difference (vote is meaningless) 4% 3% 2% 3% 4% 2%
I didn't like any of the parties/candidates (no choice) 3% 1% 6% 5% 1% 3%
I don't trust government/ politicians 2% 4% 3% 3% 6% 2%
The party/candidate I liked didn't have a chance of winning 1% 0% 1% 1% 0% 1%
Interest in Politics 12% 14% 9% 12% 13% 10%
I don't care (lack of interest) 12% 14% 9% 12% 13% 10%
Political Knowledge 11% 10% 10% 10% 10% 9%
I don't know enough about parties/candidates/issues 11% 10% 10% 10% 10% 9%
Access Barriers 64% 61% 58% 60% 55% 66%
Process Knowledge 4% 8% 6% 5% 10% 8%
I was unsure of how, when or where to vote 4% 8% 6% 5% 10% 8%
Personal Circumstances  50% 40% 44% 46% 32% 49%
I was at school/work all day/Taking care of family/children (or too busy) 30% 19% 25% 28% 12% 24%
I was travelling/away from my riding 14% 8% 11% 10% 9% 10%
Unable to get to polling station (location not convenient/ transportation issues) 4% 7% 5% 4% 9% 9%
I forgot 2% 3% 3% 3% 0% 4%
I was sick <1% 2% 0% 1% 1% 2%
Incarceration/homelessness 0% 1% 0% <1% 1% 0%
Administrative Barriers  9% 13% 9% 9% 13% 9%
I didn't have ID or proof of address or VIC 5% 9% 5% 4% 9% 4%
I wasn't registered/didn't know how to register 3% 3% 2% 2% 3% 2%
Voting is not convenient 2% 2% 2% 2% 1% 3%
Other 4% 4% 6% 3% 4% 4%

Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

4.3 Electoral Participation and Motivation

Smaller proportions of Aboriginal (59%) and unemployed (55%) youth as well as youth with disabilities (54%) were satisfied or very satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada when compared to the national random sample, in which 70% of youth were satisfied or very satisfied. Similar proportions of ethnocultural (66%) and rural (73%) youth were satisfied or very satisfied.

Subgroups generally held less positive attitudes toward politics, democracy and citizenship (Table 4‑4). Youth in subgroups were less likely, when compared to the national random sample, to somewhat or strongly agree that:

Subgroups were more likely to agree, somewhat or strongly, that all federal parties were the same. Attitudes of youth in the rural subgroup were more similar to the national random sample than youth from other subgroups.

Table 4‑4: Attitudes toward Politics and Democracy
Somewhat or Strongly Agree National Average Aboriginal Ethno-cultural Unemployed Youth with Disabilities Rural
It's a civic duty for citizens to vote in elections 91% 75% 83% 68% 70% 87%
There is at least one political party that talks about issues that are important to me 91% 76% 83% 74% 75% 88%
I feel that by voting I can make a difference 84% 67% 75% 63% 66% 79%
The government plays a major role in my life 76% 64% 72% 62% 68% 71%
All federal parties are the same 17% 32% 30% 30% 33% 23%

Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

For all youth subgroups, increasing interest in Canadian politics corresponded with increasing voting rates. However, slightly fewer youth in subgroups were somewhat or very interested in Canadian politics: 65% of Aboriginal youth, 72% of ethnocultural youth, 67% of unemployed youth, 68% of youth with disabilities and 69% of rural youth, compared to 74% in the national random sample.

Similar to the national random sample, signing a petition was the political activity in which youth subgroups had most commonly participated. Higher proportions of youth in subgroups, especially Aboriginal and rural youth, had attended a community meeting than had youth in the national random sample. More youth in the subgroups had expressed their views by contacting a newspaper, or commenting on a blog or online discussion, and fewer had contacted a politician than youth in the national random sample. These more engaged youth were generally more likely to have voted.

As in the national random sample, higher proportions of youth who had volunteered for an organization in the past 12 months had voted than those who had not.

High political knowledge was associated with high electoral participation for both the national sample and the youth subgroups. However, overall political knowledge, as measured by the number of correct answers to the survey questions, was lower for youth in the subgroups (Chart 4‑2).

Chart 4‑2: Political Knowledge

Political Knowledge
Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Text description of Chart 4-2

4.4 Electoral Participation and Access

When compared to the national random sample, youth non-voters in the subgroups also said that not knowing where, when or how to vote had influenced or strongly influenced their decision not to vote (Table 4‑5).

Table 4‑5: Knowing When, Where and How to Vote among Non-voters
Somewhat or Strong Influence National Average Aboriginal Ethno-cultural Unemployed Youth with Disabilities Rural
Knowing when to vote 26% 25% 31% 20% 33% 22%
Knowing where to vote 25% 28% 32% 21% 33% 23%
Knowing how to vote 19% 23% 27% 17% 33% 17%

Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Awareness of any other options to vote, other than at the polling station on election day, was lower for youth subgroups (Chart 4‑3).

Chart 4‑3: Awareness of Different Voting Options


Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Text description of Chart 4-3

Administrative barriers to voting were provided as the main reason for not voting by youth in subgroups. There were some differences in the proportions of different subgroups who said they had received a VIC (Chart 4‑4). Fewer Aboriginal, unemployed and youth with disabilities said they had received a VIC compared with the sample as a whole. Youth who said they did not receive a VIC may have received one but had not recalled receiving it.

Chart 4‑4: Percentage of Youth Who Had Received a VIC

Percentage of Youth Who Had Received a VIC
Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Text description of Chart 4-4

A higher proportion of Aboriginal youth (23%), youth with disabilities (23%) and unemployed (21%) youth disagreed or strongly disagreed that "they would feel welcome at the polling station," when compared to the national random sample (11%). This was much less of a problem among rural youth (7%) (Chart 4‑5).

Chart 4‑5: Percentage of Youth Non-voters Who Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed
That They Would Feel Welcome at the Polling Station

Percentage of Youth Non-voters Who Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed That They Would Feel Welcome at the Polling Station
Source: National Youth Survey national random and purposive samples.

Text description of Chart 4-5

4.5 Influencers

Compared to the national random sample (78%), fewer Aboriginal youth (64%), unemployed youth (60%) or youth with disabilities (64%) said that they had talked about politics or the government at home when they were growing up. The proportion of ethnocultural (74%) and rural (72%) youth who had discussed politics at home was similar to the national random sample.

Being directly contacted by a political party or candidate was associated with higher rates of voting participation in the general election for all subgroups and the national random sample. However, fewer youth in all subgroups, and particularly Aboriginal youth (27%) and unemployed youth (28%), said they had been directly contacted when compared to the national random sample (40%).

For youth in the subgroups, politicians in general, the media and family, friends and peers were the main people or groups influencing the decision of whether or not to vote. As for the national random sample, television was the main source of information about the election for subgroup youth. Vote mobs or endorsements by a famous person were mentioned by few youth in the subgroups.

4.6 Barriers to Voting by Youth in Subgroups

Binary logistic regression22 was used to determine the extent to which different barriers and influencers were associated with electoral participation within the subgroups. A summary of the characteristics associated with non-participation in the 2011 general election for these subgroups is provided below. Examples of profiles of youth voters and non-voters are provided to illustrate the subgroups.

Table 4‑6: Factors Explaining Subgroup Voting Behaviour

Subgroups and FactorsR2
Aboriginal .485
Lack of family influence to vote
Lack of interest in last federal election
Low awareness of different ways of voting
Difficulty getting to the polling station
Low educational attainment
Not perceiving voting as easy or convenient
Ethnocultural .425
Lack of a belief that voting is a civic duty
Lack of family influence to vote
Using TV as main source of information about the election
Lack of interest in last federal election
Not knowing when to vote
Difficulty getting to polling station
Not receiving a VIC
Unemployed .469
Lack of interest in last federal election
Low awareness of different ways of voting
Difficulty getting to polling station
Not receiving a VIC
Youth with disabilities.490
Lack of interest in last federal election
Lack of family influence to vote
Few correct answers to three political questions
Not receiving a VIC
Rural.457
Lack of a belief that voting is a civic duty
Lack of interest in last federal election
Lack of family influence to vote
Low influence from politicians in general
Few correct answers to three political questions
Low awareness of different ways of voting
Not knowing where to vote
Difficulty getting to polling station
Not perceiving voting as easy or convenient

Both motivation factors and access barriers influenced voting participation within subgroups. Within all subgroups, non-voters' lack of interest in the election was a key predictor of their voting behaviour.

Aspects of knowing where, when or different ways to vote were associated with non-voting by youth in the subgroups (with the exception of youth with disabilities). Not receiving a VIC was significantly associated with not voting for ethnocultural, unemployed and youth with disabilities. Difficulty in getting to the polling station was also a common barrier associated with not voting by all subgroups, with the exception of youth with disabilities. However, this may be because both voters and non-voters among youth with disabilities were affected by this barrier.

Other characteristics influencing low participation were specific to particular groups, including:

In the bivariate analysis, subgroup youth appeared to have fewer influencers. In the regression analysis, with the exception of unemployed youth, lack of family influence on decisions whether or not to vote was a significant barrier to voting for all youth in all subgroups.

4.6.1 Aboriginal Youth

Aboriginal youth, and in particular First Nations and Inuit youth, had the lowest rates of voting participation even after taking educational attainment into account. First Nations youth living on reserve had lower rates of voting than those not living on reserve.

Aboriginal youth non-voters were less interested in the last general election, less knowledgeable about different ways of voting and more likely to have transportation difficulties in getting to the polling station. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Aboriginal non-voters were also less likely to perceive voting as easy and convenient.

Aboriginal Youth Profiles of Aboriginal Youth
Factors associated with Aboriginal youth non-voters:
MOTIVATION
Political interest
  • Lower level of interest in the election
ACCESS
Process knowledge
  • Less likely to be aware of different ways of voting
Personal circumstances
  • More likely to be First Nations or Inuit and to live on reserve
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station
  • Lower educational attainment
Administrative
  • Less likely to consider voting easy and convenient
INFLUENCERS
  • Less influenced by family
Non-voter:
Adoni is 32 years old, First Nations, lives on a reserve, has a Grade 12 education and is unemployed. He has not voted in any of the elections for which he has been eligible to vote, and the main reason he did not vote in the last general election was because he was unable to get to the polling station and had misplaced his driver's licence (his only ID). Adoni was not at all interested in the last general election.

Voter:
Leena, on the other hand, is 25 years old, single, Métis and lives in a rural area. She has completed a university degree and is employed. Leena has voted in all elections since she has been eligible to vote, and she voted in the last election because she believes that voting is important. Her parents usually vote. She is generally interested in Canadian politics and is satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada.

4.6.2 Ethnocultural Youth

The notable difference between ethnocultural youth and other youth subgroups is that non-voters in this group were less likely to see voting as a civic duty and more likely to use television as their main source of information on the election.

Ethnocultural Youth Profiles of Ethnocultural Youth
Factors associated with ethnocultural youth non-voters:
MOTIVATION
General attitudes
  • Less likely to believe that voting is a civic duty
Political interest
  • Lower level of interest in the election
ACCESS
Process knowledge
  • Less likely to be aware of when to vote
Personal circumstances
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station
Administrative
  • Less likely to have received a VIC
INFLUENCERS
  • Less influenced by family
  • TV is main source of information
Non-voter:
Miguel was born outside Canada, is in his early twenties and is currently working. He is single with no children and has recently moved back to live with his parents. His recent change in address is likely to be the main reason he did not receive a VIC. Miguel never votes, and he did not vote in the last general election because he was not at all interested.

Voter:
Sofia is in her late twenties, single and renting alone. She is currently employed and holds a university degree. Sofia votes in all elections and voted in the last general election because she felt it was her civic duty. Overall, she was very interested in the last general election, is interested in Canadian politics and is somewhat satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada.

4.6.3 Unemployed Youth

Unemployed non-voters were similar to other groups of youth non-voters and characterized by less knowledge about the different ways of voting. This lack of knowledge may be exacerbated by the fact that they were less likely to have received a VIC and had difficulty getting to the polling station.

Unemployed Youth Profiles of Unemployed Youth
Factors associated with ethnocultural youth non-voters:
MOTIVATION
Political interest
  • Lower level of interest in the election
ACCESS
Process knowledge
  • Less likely to be aware of different ways of voting
Personal circumstances
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station
Administrative
  • Less likely to have received a VIC
Non-voter:
Alexis is a 21‑year-old youth who is unemployed and has less than a Grade 12 education. She has not voted in any election since she has been eligible to vote and attributes her lack of electoral participation to her lack of interest; she was not interested in the general election and is not interested in Canadian politics. She can't see the point in voting, and even if she had wanted to vote, she could not have got a ride to the polling station on voting day.

Voter:
Jacob is a 24‑year-old youth who is unemployed with some university education. He has voted in most elections since he has been eligible to vote and voted in the last general election to support a political party. He was very interested in the last general election.

4.6.4 Youth with Disabilities

Youth with a disability were less likely to vote than their peers without disabilities. Among youth with disabilities, non-voters were less interested in the last election than voters. They were also less likely to be knowledgeable about Canadian politics in general.

Youth with Disabilities Profiles of Youth with Disabilities
Factors associated with non-voting youth with disabilities:
MOTIVATION
Political interest
  • Lower level of interest in the election
Political knowledge
  • Less able to answer questions about politics
ACCESS
Administrative
  • Less likely to have received a VIC
INFLUENCERS
  • Less influenced by family
Non-voter:
Joe is 32 years old, single and a non-voter with disabilities living with someone in an urban community. He has less than a Grade 12 education and is unemployed. In the last general election, Joe was unsure of how or where to vote. The physical accessibility of the polling station did not influence Joe's decision not to vote, but he wasn't really interested.

Voter:
Mark is 24 years old, single and a voter with disabilities living with someone in an urban community. He has completed some university and is employed. Mark always votes, and his reason for doing so in the last election was to oppose a political party. Mark was very interested in the last general election, is interested in Canadian politics and is satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada. His family dropped by to give him a ride to the polling station.

4.6.5 Youth Living in Rural Localities

Youth living in rural localities had similar voting rates to youth as a whole. However, in rural localities, youth non-voters differed from youth voters in a number of ways, pointing to the unique challenges associated with youth electoral participation in rural communities. These include less awareness of different ways of voting and difficulty getting to the polling station.

Rural Youth Profile of Rural Youth
Factors associated with rural youth non-voters:
ACCESS
General attitudes
  • Less likely to believe that voting is a civic duty
Political interest
  • Lower level of interest in the election
Political knowledge
  • Less able to answer questions about politics
Process knowledge
  • Less likely to be aware of where to vote
  • Less likely to know different ways of voting
Personal circumstances
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station
Administrative
  • Less likely to consider voting easy and convenient
INFLUENCERS
  • Less influenced by family or politicians in general
Non-voter:
Emma is a 26‑year-old woman with a high school diploma. She is employed and lives in a rural community with a population of less than 10,000. Despite being somewhat interested in the last general election and Canadian politics in general, Emma did not vote in the last general election because she was at school/work all day. Emma has voted in some elections since she has been eligible to vote, but it has always been difficult to get to the polling station as she does not own a car..

Voter:
Sarah is a 30‑year-old woman living in a rural community. She is currently employed and has a trade school diploma. She has voted in all elections since she has been eligible to vote, including the last general election. She was very interested in the last general election and voted to express her opinions. She is generally interested in Canadian politics and is somewhat satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada.

4.7 Summary of Youth Subgroups: Key Differences with the National Sample

The youth subgroups studied have lower rates of electoral engagement than the general population of youth in Canada (with the possible exception of rural youth). It is important to note, however, that as the sample was not selected randomly, the youth in the subgroups are not necessarily representative of all Canadian youth in those subgroups. A comparison of barriers to electoral participation between youth subgroups and the national random sample demonstrated that specific motivation and access barriers may be more prevalent among the subgroups.

In general, youth in subgroups hold a less positive view of Canadian politics and democracy. Voters from the subgroups were less likely than Canadian youth as a whole to cite the importance of voting (for instance, that it is a civic duty). Rather, they were more likely than Canadian youth as a whole to vote to support or oppose a political party. However, concerns about access form another barrier to electoral participation. Access barriers, such as knowing when and where to vote and the different ways of voting, are hampering participation of youth from these subgroups. Electoral participation among youth in several subgroups was further hampered by their being less likely to have received a VIC.

In addition, youth in the subgroups appeared to have less exposure to a range of factors that might influence rates of voting. For instance, a lower proportion of subgroups reported growing up in homes where politics was discussed as a family, and family were less often mentioned as influencing voting decisions.

The unique barriers that these groups face are complex, but some may be within the scope of Elections Canada to attempt to address.


22 A detailed explanation of the method used is provided in Appendix A.