Summary – Estimation of Voter Turnout by Age Group and Gender at the 2021 General Election
For Canadian federal elections, official voter turnout is calculated as the number of votes cast divided by the number of registered electors. Because registration rates vary over time, this measure can be misleading when comparing turnout from two different elections.
To overcome this limitation, this study defines turnout as the number of votes cast divided by the estimated number of eligible voters, regardless of their registration status. These estimates are generally larger than the number of registered electors, because not all potential electors are registered, so the resulting turnout estimates are typically lower than official turnout figures.
Using this method, comparisons over time and between demographic groups reflect only changes in participation, regardless of any variations in registration rates. This makes historic comparisons between elections more accurate.
Many factors can influence turnout in an election. While this study does not look into those factors, it should be noted that the 2021 election was held under unprecedented pandemic conditions.
Elections Canada has been producing turnout reports by age of electors since the 2004 general election. In 2008, the sex of electors was introduced as a metric. Following changes to Canada's census in 2021, the 2021 report is the first to produce estimates based on gender as opposed to sex.
Voter Turnout Highlights
Official turnout for the 44th general election held on September 20, 2021, was 62.6%. This is 4.4 percentage points lower than the previous general election in 2019 (67.0%) and 3.8 percentage points higher than the all-time low of 58.8% for the 2008 election. Using the denominator of eligible voters instead of registered electors, the national turnout figure for 2021 is 62.2%—a decrease of 4.8 percentage points from the previous general election in 2019 (67%). The following highlights follow this methodology.
In 2021, turnout gradually increased with age groups, from 46.7% for ages 18–24 to 74.9% for ages 65–74, and then declined to 65.9% for those aged 75 and over. This pattern is reflected across all provinces and territories and has been observed in every general election since 2004, when Elections Canada first began producing these reports.
The participation of voters aged 18–24 decreased by 7.2 points from 53.9% in 2019 to 46.7% in 2021. Electors eligible to vote for the first time in 2021footnote 1 voted at a rate (44.7%) that was 9.9 percentage points lower than those who were eligible to vote for the first time in 2019footnote 2 (53.6%).
Women participated at a higher rate (63.8%) than men (60.6%) across all age groups up to age 65, at which point men participated at a comparable or higher rate than women. This is the same pattern seen in all general elections since 2008.
The 2021 election marks the highest percentage of voters who chose to cast their ballot using a method other than in-person voting on polling day. For the first time, over 50% of voters over the age of 65 voted using a method other than in-person voting on polling day.
Return to footnote 1 Citizens born between October 22, 2001, and September 20, 2003 were eligible to vote for the first time in the 44th general election in 2021.
Return to footnote 2 Citizens born between October 20, 1997, and October 21, 2001, were eligible to vote for the first time in the 43rd general election in 2019.