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National Youth Survey Report

SECTION 5: SEGMENTED PROFILES OF YOUTH BASED ON VOTING PATTERNS

This section profiles habitual voters (voted in all elections), frequent voters (voted in most elections), occasional voters (voted in some elections) and habitual non-voters (voted in no elections).23 The data used in this section were drawn from both the random and the purposive samples.

5.1 General Voting Patterns

When youth were asked about all elections since they had been eligible to vote, within the random sample of youth 13% identified as habitual non-voters, 21% as occasional voters, 20% as frequent voters and 46% as habitual voters.

When youth subgroups were considered (using both random and purposive samples), patterns of voting for rural youth were similar to the national random sample. Other youth subgroups were more likely to be habitual non-voters in particular, Aboriginal youth and unemployed youth (Table 5‑1).

Table 5‑1: General Voting Patterns
Habitual Voters Frequent Voters Occasional Voters Habitual Non-voters
Aboriginal 17% 16% 30% 37%
Ethnocultural 30% 22% 26% 22%
Unemployed 22% 14% 24% 39%
Youth with disabilities 20% 20% 32% 29%
Rural 41% 22% 22% 14%
National random sample 46% 20% 21% 13%

Source: National Youth Survey random and purposive samples.

Logistic multinomial regression was used to explore the characteristics of habitual non-voters, occasional voters and frequent voters, compared to youth who reported voting in all elections in which they had been eligible to vote (habitual voters). The multinomial model tested the relationship between general voting behaviour and the variables determined through the logistic regression in Section 3 to be significantly related to voting behaviour in the 2011 general election. Further, variables representing the subgroups (Aboriginal, those with disabilities, ethnocultural, rural and unemployed) were entered into the model.

The results of this analysis show that there are many significant differences among the four groups, with the number of differences growing as the analysis progresses from frequent voter to occasional voter to habitual non-voter (Table 5‑2). The key differences between habitual voters and the other three groups include motivation barriers, such as being less likely to consider voting a civic duty, and access factors, such as knowing when to vote and difficulty getting to the polling station. There were also some differences with respect to influencers, such as the three groups being less likely to discuss politics with family or to have discussed politics with their family while growing up.

Table 5‑2: Profiles of Youth Voting Patterns Compared to Habitual Voters

Voted in All Elections
(Habitual Voters)

Reference Group

Voted in Most Elections
(Frequent Voters)


MOTIVATION FACTORS
Attitudes

  • Less likely to consider voting a civic duty

Interest

  • Less interest in politics

Political knowledge

  • Less able to answer questions about politics

ACCESS FACTORS
Process knowledge

  • Less likely to know when to vote

Personal circumstances

  • More likely to be Aboriginal or unemployed
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station

INFLUENCERS

  • Less likely to discuss politics with family or to have discussed politics with family while growing up
  • More likely to use TV as main source of information on election

Sometimes Voted
(Occasional Voters)

 

MOTIVATION FACTORS
Attitudes

  • Less likely to consider voting a civic duty
  • More likely to believe that all parties are the same

Interest

  • Less interest in politics

Political knowledge

  • Less able to answer questions about politics
  • Less knowledgeable about candidates

ACCESS FACTORS
Process knowledge

  • Less likely to know when to vote or know different ways of voting

Personal circumstances

  • More likely to be Aboriginal, be of ethnocultural descent or have a disability
  • More likely to have difficulty getting to the polling station
  • Less likely to live in a rural area

Administrative

  • Less likely to consider voting easy and convenient

INFLUENCERS

  • Less likely to have discussed politics with family or to have discussed politics with family while growing up

Never Voted
(Habitual Non-voters)

MOTIVATION FACTORS
Attitudes

  • Less likely to consider voting a civic duty
  • More likely to believe that all parties are the same

Interest

  • Less interest in politics

Political knowledge

  • Less able to answer questions about politics
  • Less knowledgeable about candidates

ACCESS FACTORS
Process knowledge

  • Less likely to know when to vote or about different ways of voting

Personal circumstances

  • More likely to be Aboriginal and to have difficulty getting to the polling station
  • Less likely to have any university education or live in a rural area

Administrative

  • Less likely to have received a VIC or to consider voting easy

INFLUENCERS

  • Less likely to discuss politics with family or to be influenced by family or politicians in general
  • More likely to use TV as main source of information about the election

5.2 Gained Voters versus Lost Voters

In total, 85% of voters followed their established voting behaviour in the May 2011 general election: most habitual and frequent voters voted, while most occasional voters and habitual non-voters did not. However, 15% of voters did not follow their established voting behaviour. In fact, 11% of the national random sample voted in the 2011 general election, despite being either a habitual non-voter or an occasional voter. In contrast, only 4% of the population who were frequent or habitual voters did not vote.

The fact that the "gained" voters outnumber the "lost" voters may be a result of increasing youth age rather than an indication of a shift toward increased youth voting participation overall, as youth are generally more likely to vote as they age (with the observed exception being the 18‑ and 19‑year-olds). However, there do appear to be subgroups that may be moving toward increased voting participation quicker than the general population (i.e. catching up to the voting behaviour of the general population of youth). For instance, 18% of ethnocultural youth voted in the past general election despite having not voted in most previous elections for which they were eligible.

Table 5‑3: Voting Behaviour versus General Voting Patterns
Follow Established Behaviour Gained Voter Lost Voter
Aboriginal 77% 16% 7%
Ethnocultural 80% 18% 2%
Unemployed 79% 15% 6%
Youth with disabilities 84% 10% 6%
Rural 89% 9% 2%
National random sample 85% 11% 4%

Source: National Youth Survey random and purposive samples.

5.2.1 Reasons for Changes in Voting Patterns

The reasons for previous non-voters participating in the 2011 general election and for previous voters not participating were examined by exploring the main reasons provided for voting or not voting. 24 Among gained voters, the top reason was, "It allows me to express my opinions." It is interesting to note that among the general population, the top reason for voting was, "It is my civic duty to vote." Of gained voters, only 8% listed civic duty as their reason for voting. This suggests that attempts to increase voting participation by non-voting youth should focus messaging around personal expression rather than civic duty.

Table 5‑4: Voting Behaviour versus General Voting Patterns
Gained Voter Total General Population
It allows me to express my opinions/views 20% 16%
Because I think it is important to vote 17% 17%
To support or oppose a political party 17% 15%
It is a civic duty to vote 8% 28%
To support or oppose a specific candidate 7% 4%
I can/It is my right 7% 3%

Source: National Youth Survey random and purposive samples.

The main reason for not voting among lost voters was being "out of the riding at the time of the election." This is not surprising given the mobility of Canadian youth. Another frequently mentioned reason was "being busy the day of the election with school and/or work commitments." Other common reasons had to do with process issues around voting, such as transportation and the requirements for ID and proof of address. Although some lost voters did mention a lack of interest in the parties and candidates, more voters were lost because of access barriers as opposed to motivation barriers.

Table 5‑5: Top Reasons for Not Voting among Lost Voters
Lost Voters Non-voters from General Population
I was travelling/away from my riding 24% 14%
I was at school/work all day/Taking care of family/children (or too busy) 24% 30%
Unable to get to polling station (location not convenient/transportation issues) 9% 3%
I didn't have ID or proof of address or VIC 6% 3%
I didn't like any of the parties/candidates (no choice) 6% 3%

Source: National Youth Survey random and purposive samples.


23 This terminology is derived from Howe's The Electoral Participation of Young Canadians, 2007.

24 Because of small sample sizes, this level of analysis was not attempted by segment