The Electoral Participation of Diverse Canadian Youth in the 2015 Federal Election
3. Access Barriers among Diverse Youth
The report now presents how different youth subgroups experience barriers to participation, which may render the act of voting more difficult for them and ultimately limit their participation in the federal election. We focus more specifically on individuals' levels of knowledge about how to vote in federal elections, the ease of finding information about how to vote, and the ease with which a ballot can be cast. First, to assess youth's knowledge about the electoral process, we examine whether youth know about the various ways to vote in a federal election (in addition to voting in-person at the polling station on election day)Footnote 2 and know about the need to prove their identity and address when voting.Footnote 3 Secondly, we assess the ease with which youth could find information about where, when and how to vote.Footnote 4 The final set of variables assesses the ease with which a ballot could be cast. Therefore, we examine whether young respondents received a voter information card in the mail; whether they used Elections Canada's online voter registration service to check, update or complete their voter registration; and how easy it was (or would have been) for them to get to the voting location, identify their address, and return the mail-in ballot (in case youth voted by mail).Footnote 5 Table 3 presents bivariate relationships and displays access barriers, resources, and political attitudes for the various subgroups of youth.
The first section of Table 3 presents the access barriers and levels of knowledge about the electoral process for the 11 youth subgroups. We first note that Aboriginal youth, visible minority youth, unemployed youth, students, and youth with disabilities generally have lower levels of knowledge about the electoral process, compared respectively with non-Aboriginal, non-visible-minority, and employed youth, and youth with no disability. In addition, Aboriginal youth were less likely to have received a voter information card from Elections Canada compared with other Canadian youth. Only 66.9% of Aboriginal youth indicated having received a voter information card, compared with 77.1% of non-Aboriginal Canadian youth. Although differences were not statistically significant within groups defined by visible minority status, occupational status, living environment, and disability status, we note that visible minority, rural, unemployed youth, students, and youth with disabilities were also comparatively less likely to have received a voter information card.Footnote 6
When looking at use of Elections Canada's online registration platform, we see that students were more likely to have used it compared with employed youth (and with other youth groups). In fact, 34.6% of the students reported having used the online platform. This may be explained by students' higher rate of Internet use and online activities (DiMaggio et al. 2004). Alternatively, youth living in rural areas were less likely to have used the online platform (less than 24.5% reported using it) compared with youth living in urban areas (29.2%). While the Internet penetration is continuously progressing in Canada, problems of Internet connection might still explain lower use of the online registration system in rural areas.
Finally, unemployed youth, students, and youth with disabilities proved to experience more difficulty voting than employed youth and youth with no disability. Additional analyses revealed that youth with disabilities anticipated or experienced more difficulties proving their identity and address compared with youth with no disability. Students anticipated or experienced more difficulties finding their voting location and proving their identity and address. In addition, Aboriginal youth, visible minority youth, unemployed youth,Footnote 7 and students experienced more difficulty finding information about where, when, and how to vote (compared with non-Aboriginal, non-visible-minority, and employed youth).
|Aboriginal status||Visible minority||Occupational status||Living environment||Disability status|
|Non-vis.- min. ||Unemployed||Student||Employed||Rural||Urban ||With a disability||No disab. |
|Knowledge: how to vote
|Knowledge: proofs of identity, online voting (mean, 03)||2.4*||2.5||2.4**||2.5||2.3||2.4*||2.5||2.4||2.5||2.3**||2.5|
|Received voter information card (%)||66.9**||77.1||73.9||78.1||67.8||74.4||77.8||75.9||77.0||69.7||77.0|
|Used online registration (%)||33.7||27.7||31.1||27.6||20.2||34.6***||26.4||24.5*||29.2||34.4||27.6|
|Ease of voting (mean, 28)||7.2||7.3||7.3||7.4||7.0**||7.1***||7.4||7.3||7.4||7.0**||7.4|
|Ease to find information about where, when and how to vote (mean, 312)||9.8*||10.3||10.1*||10.3||10.0||10.0***||10.4||10.2||10.3||9.9||10.3|
|Resources and attitudes|
|Interest: politics (mean, 14)||3.1||3.0||3.0||3.1||2.8**||3.0*||3.1||2.9***||3.1||2.9||3.0|
|Interest: election (mean, 14)||3.4||3.4||3.4||3.4||3.0***||3.3||3.4||3.3**||3.4||3.4||3.4|
|Political knowledge (mean, 05)||2.4***||2.9||2.9||2.9||2.3***||2.9||2.9||2.6***||3.0||2.7||2.9|
|Ease to find information about candidates and political parties (mean, 14)||3.2||3.1||3.0**||3.2||3.1||3.1||3.1||3.2||3.1||3.1||3.1|
|Belief about political competence (mean, 14)||2.4*||2.7||2.4***||2.7||2.4*||2.5**||2.7||2.5***||2.7||2.6||2.6|
|Satisfaction with democracy (mean, 14)||2.6**||2.8||2.9***||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.8||2.6*||2.8|
|Perception of political responsiveness (mean, 14)||2.3**||2.5||2.4*||2.5||2.3*||2.5||2.5||2.4**||2.5||2.3*||2.5|
|Voting is a civic duty (%)||46.6||51.3||48.7||52.1||33.1**||53.9||51.1||49.3||51.7||47.2||51.3|
Note: Canadian youth aged 18 to 34.
Statistically significant differences: *** p<.001 ; ** p<.01 ; * p<.05 (reference category: )
In sum, Aboriginal youth, visible minority youth, unemployed youth, students, youth living in rural areas, and youth with disabilities generally experience more barriers to participation than the majority groups. Firstly, all these subgroups presented lower levels of knowledge about the electoral process. In addition, Aboriginal youth were less likely to have received a voter information card, and youth living in rural areas were less likely to have used online registration. Finally, unemployed youth, students, and youth with disabilities encountered or experienced more difficulties finding the voting location or proving their identity and address. These barriers contribute to explaining lower levels of turnout, and we will test for their influence in the multivariate model explaining electoral participation (in the last section).