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Explaining the Turnout Decline in Canadian Federal Elections: A New Survey of Non-voters


The 2000 federal general election saw a significant decline in the number of Canadians who voted: slightly more than 64 percent of registered electors chose to exercise their right to vote, compared to 67 percent in the 1997 general election and 69.6 percent in 1993. Following the election, political representatives, media commentators, researchers and others expressed considerable concern about this development.

The Chief Electoral Officer is mandated to ensure that the electoral process is as accessible as possible to Canadians. This is key to encouraging voter participation. Moreover, the Canada Elections Act provides me with the authority to implement public education and information programs about the electoral process. Such programs need to be based on a solid foundation, and where required this entails commissioning research from academics with expertise in electoral matters.

In this context, it is beneficial to examine why such a significant number of Canadians stayed away from the polls at the 2000 election. We commissioned professors Jon Pammett (Carleton University) and Lawrence LeDuc (University of Toronto) to carry out a major research project to explore the factors related to electors' decisions not to vote on that occasion.

The authors' study is based on a major survey conducted by Decima Research. Interviews were conducted with almost 1 000 Canadians who did not vote in the 2000 election and a similar number who did vote. Professors Pammett and LeDuc provide a detailed analysis of the survey results and identify a number of factors which, in their assessment, are linked to non-voting. The findings about the level of voter participation of younger Canadians and their reasons for not voting merit particular attention.

Elections Canada is pleased to publish this study and I wish to thank professors Pammett and LeDuc for their excellent work and their collaboration with us. The observations and conclusions are those of the authors.

I trust that you will find this research study informative and that it will enrich public debate about measures to help reverse the recent decline in voter participation in federal elections.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada