Survey of Electors Following the 42nd General Election
1. Report Summary
Elections Canada commissioned R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd. to conduct a telephone survey with electors eligible to vote in the 42nd general election held on October 19, 2015. The research objectives were to measure public attitudes and knowledge about Elections Canada's services, as well as to obtain opinions about electors' experiences during the 42nd general election. In order to better obtain the opinion of specific groups of electors, namely young adults, Aboriginal electors, people born outside of Canada and people with disabilities, an oversampling of those groups was conducted. This survey assessed electors' experiences with recent changes to the electoral process arising from Bill C-23 (Fair Elections Act). Where relevant, the results from this 20-minutes survey were also compared with the results from the surveys of electors following the 40th and 41st general elections. In total over 3,500 Canadian electors took the time to provide this feedback. Results are considered accurate to within +/- 1.8%, 19 times out of 20.
Overall, electors were satisfied with the work of Elections Canada during the 42nd general election. The vast majority of respondents who voted in the election were satisfied with both their voting experience (96%) and the service that was provided by Elections Canada staff (97%). Almost all respondents felt that voting was an easy process (97%) and that the place where they voted was convenient (95%) and located in a suitable building. However, that is not to say that there is no room for improvement; for instance, many electors are unaware that registration can now take place online. As well, some electors believe one can cast one's ballot online. Further, the perceptions and experiences are not homogenous across subgroups of electors for which oversampling was conducted. Significant differences can be seen among Aboriginal electors, young adults (aged 18 to 34), foreign-born electors, and people with disabilities. These differences are presented later in the report.
1.1 Voter Awareness
Awareness of the election was high, with almost all (99%) electors surveyed indicating that they were aware of the election that took place on October 19, 2015. Electors felt that they were well informed about how, where and when to vote in the election (96%). A sizable majority (88%) of electors also indicated that they were familiar with the registration requirements for voting in an election. Most respondents were also able to cite at least one legitimate method of voting when asked, although one-in-ten incorrectly identified online voting and 2% also incorrectly identified proxy as current ways that electors could vote. Non-voters were less inclined to report hearing or seeing information on the electoral process than voters. When asked about how well informed they felt about how, when and where to vote, non-voters were less inclined than voters to say that they felt informed (82% versus 98%). Television was the primary source of information for respondents, frequently topping the lists of sources they cited with regard to information about both the election and the voting process. Communications from Elections Canada (e.g., voter information card, Elections Canada householder-brochure, Elections Canada's website) were a significant source of information for electors. This is particularly the case for the voter information card, which was one of the main sources of information on how to vote, including the registration requirement. A sizable majority of electors also expressed some degree of interest in politics.
Familiarity with Elections Canada's communications and services were more varied. While almost eight in ten (78%) electors recalled seeing, hearing or reading advertising and communications related to how, when and where to vote in the election, only half (51%) indicated that they were familiar with the Online Voter Registration Service.
1.2 Elector Communication
While most respondents recalled seeing some form of advertising and official elections communications from Elections Canada, only a small minority (7%) contacted Elections Canada. Respondents were generally knowledgeable about the requirement to be registered, the means to prove identification, and the methods to cast a ballot. Respondents generally felt that they were well informed about the electoral process and its requirements. Electors were less knowledgeable about online services, including the Online Voter Registration Service.
Electors were largely (88%) satisfied with the registration process and did not find it cumbersome. Most (90%) received their voter information cards (VIC), and almost all of them (97%) indicated that their name and address information were accurate. The VIC was also the main source that voters consulted to verify whether they were registered to vote. Those who were not registered to vote largely registered at the polling station prior to casting their ballot. A smaller number took advantage of the Online Voter Registration Service.
1.4 Getting to the Poll
The vast majority (95%) of respondents felt that the place where they voted was conveniently located. Voters spread their timing of the trip to the poll across the day, with near-even proportions going in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Most took a private vehicle to vote. The vast majority (89%) of respondents also brought their VIC with them to their voting location.
1.5 Service Experience
Overall, electors were satisfied with the level of service provided to them by Elections Canada (97%) and the voting experience in general (96%). The place where they voted was almost unanimously (97%) deemed to be located in a suitable building, and wait times were deemed acceptable. Almost all (99%) respondents were also satisfied with the official language in which they were served by staff, and this satisfaction remained regardless of the voter's official language of preference.
Electors were confident in the election; electors felt that the election was run in a fair manner by Elections Canada (92%), and they had a high degree of trust in the accuracy of the results in their riding (92%).
Overall, voters with disabilities were satisfied with the level of support they received from Elections Canada staff (85%). Almost all (99%) electors with disabilities also had no issue with the accessibility at the place where they voted. Those who did encounter problems generally had issues with locating the polling station or the Elections Canada office (either the building or the station itself within the building). However, less than half (43%) of electors with disabilities were aware of the tools and the assistance available from Elections Canada. This lack of awareness may partially account for how infrequently voters with disabilities took advantage of these tools and services.
1.7 Identification at the Poll
Almost (99%) all voters found the identification requirements easy to meet. The vast majority of electors voted at polling stations, either on election day or during an advance poll. All but a handful (99%) of voters had the appropriate documents needed to meet identification requirements prior to voting, and generally used their driver's licence as proof of identity and address. Voters were very satisfied with the voting experience, including the polling locations in which they were served.
1.8 Differences between Subgroups
A major purpose for this study is to understand how voting experiences or behaviours differ by subgroups of Canadian electors. The findings suggest that disabilities, birthplace and gender did not significantly impact voting experiences or behaviours. Subgroups that differ in their voting experience include electors who identify themselves as Aboriginal, are young adults (aged 18 to 34), are electors with different household income categories, or are from different regions of Canada.
Trends for Aboriginal Electors: There is an increase in Aboriginal participation in the electoral process. The self-declared voting behaviour of Aboriginal electors has reached its highest point since 2008. This is also reflected in other indicators of engagement in the electoral process. For instance, Aboriginal electors are more aware of the election process than they were during the 2008 and 2011 elections. Nevertheless, Aboriginal electors remain generally less involved in the electoral process when compared with their fellow citizens. Despite the improvement in turnout, Aboriginal electors remain less likely to have voted in the 2015 federal election. They are generally less aware of the electoral process and are less likely to trust Elections Canada or the election results compared with non-Aboriginal electors. Aboriginal electors are less likely to consult traditional media or a voter information card to obtain information about elections.
Trends for Young Adults: The level of engagement of young adults (aged 18 to 34) in the electoral process is lower than that of adults aged 35 or older. Young adults show less interest in politics and less trust in the election process in comparison with the general population. The fact that a smaller proportion of young adults voted during the last election might be a reflection of this lack of interest in politics. However, instead of mentioning that they are not interested in politics as the main reason why they did not vote, young adults are twice as likely to say that it is because they were too busy to vote. Results have also shown several differences between young adults and the general population in terms of media consumption. Young adults are less likely to rely on traditional media (i.e., television, newspapers and radio) as a source of information, and rely more on word of mouth as a source of information. This difference regarding communication media used to learn about the election is visible throughout the survey.
Trends by Socio-economic Status: Results show that lower-income (<$40k) households can be characterized as being less engaged with the electoral process. Electors from lower-income households reported having lower levels of interest in politics, being less informed about the election, and having lower levels of confidence in electoral system.
Trends by Region: Overall, regions were different from each other in terms of voting experiences or behaviours. Québec and the Territories had the most distinguishable differences from other areas of the country. Electors living in the Territories reported increased challenges in showing proof of identity and address, and they were less likely to have received their VIC. They relied more on social media as a source of information, and they felt less informed about the election than other Canadians. Additionally, electors from the Territories were more likely to find out if they were registered at the polling station on election day . Québecers were also different in how they sourced information regarding the election process, but also in the overall level of trust they have in Elections Canada. Electors from Québec referred more often to the VIC to get information about the election. Finally, electors living in the Territories and Québec had lower levels of trust in the accuracy of the election, and disabled electors from those areas of the country were less inclined to say that Elections Canada staff were sensitive to their needs.