Canadian attitudes towards voting during the COVID‑19 pandemic – Wave 3
COVID‑19: Recruitment of poll staff and working conditions
Research Division, October 2020
With the second wave of COVID‑19 currently underway, Elections Canada (EC) is preparing to hold a general election amid the pandemic, should the need arise. While an election in these circumstances would undoubtedly have implications for voters, it would also have an impact on the individuals who work at the polls.
The following information draws on recent studies to illustrate the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the recruitment of poll staff. It also points to long hours as a reason for which individuals have chosen not to work at the polls and as a point of dissatisfaction for those who have worked at the polls in the past. Findings are drawn from a report on Canadian Attitudes towards Voting during the COVID‑19 Pandemic, commissioned by EC and written by two academics at the University of Toronto, as well as from EC's commissioned report on the Survey of Election Officers Following the 43rd Federal General Election.
Decreased interest in working at an election during a pandemic
- Evidence found in Canadian Attitudes towards Voting during the COVID‑19 Pandemic – Wave 3 report (published in October 2020) shows that interest in working at the polls has decreased since before the pandemic.
- In 2019, 51% of electors indicated some interest in working at the polls; now only 46% report the same inclination. The drop in interest is found primarily among older respondents. Previously, individuals aged 55 and older showed the most interest in working at the polls (52%). Now only 40% of this age group expressed such interest. Notably, this age group represented 65% of poll workers in the 2019 general election.
- Among respondents aged 18 to 34, current interest in working at the polls is similar to 2019 levels (around 52%). However, this demographic comprised only 13% of the poll workers in the 2019 general election.
Long hours as a source of disinterest and dissatisfaction
- Recently published research has found that the long workdays associated with working at the polls, which entails 12-hour days, served to make this job less appealing to individuals.
- Almost one third (30%) of the recruitment officers surveyed in the Survey of Election Officers Following the 43rd Federal General Election indicated that the reason for which individuals turned down the opportunity to work at the polls was that the number of hours required for the job was more than expected.
- This proportion increases to more than two thirds (68%) when we also consider those who turned down the opportunity to work at the polls due to scheduling conflicts, meaning working long hours at the polls conflicted with a day job or school.
- Among those who worked at the polls during the 2019 general election and were not satisfied with their working conditions (7% of the respondents), 41% pointed to the number of hours of work as a reason for dissatisfaction.
- This increases to 72% if we include those who cited the lack of breaks during the workday as a reason for dissatisfaction, which may be related to working long days.