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The Electoral Participation of Diverse Canadian Youth in the 2015 Federal Election

6. Social and Political Engagement

The literature provides evidence that citizens' interactions with their social and political environment can affect their willingness to be politically active. Firstly, involvement in community associations and social groups helps citizens develop civic skills and a feeling of community, and may facilitate political action (Putnam 2000). Secondly, citizens' involvement in a variety of political actions may increase their likelihood of participating in the elections as well (Verba et al. 1995). Finally, citizens' use of social programs and interactions with governmental offices represent meaningful political experiences, which can affect citizens' willingness to vote (Soss 1999, Mettler and Stonecash 2008, Sharp 2009). In this section, we focus on social engagement, political participation, and contacts with the government. Social engagement is measured by asking respondents if they had volunteered for any organizations in the past year.Footnote 13 Political participation is measured by the level of involvement in 14 acts of political participation.Footnote 14 And finally, respondents were asked if they had contacted or visited a government office in the past year (such as a Service Canada office or a provincial government office).Footnote 15

Figure 1 presents the rate of volunteering among the different youth subgroups, and reveals only three significant differences in volunteering. First, unemployed youth were substantially less likely to volunteer than employed youth (with rate of volunteering of 26.8% compared to 37.9% among employed youth), whereas students were much more likely to volunteer (with a volunteering rate of 48.6%). The level of political participation was also significantly lower among unemployed youth (with an average of 2.4 political actions in the past 12 months), compared to employed youth (with an average of 3.8 political actions). Secondly, we note in Figure 1 that youth with disabilities are substantially more likely to volunteer (50.8%) compared to youth with no disability (39.3%). Similarly, they are more engaged politically, performing on average 4.5 political actions, compared to youth with no disability (with an average of 3.7 actions).

In terms of contact with governmental offices, only rural youth proved to be substantially less likely to contact or visit a governmental office (43.5%), compared to urban youth (48.9%). In sum, the results show that there are only few differences between subgroups in terms of volunteering, political participation and contacts with governmental offices.

Figure 1: Rate of Volunteering among Different Youth subgroups

Long description of "Figure 1: Rate of Volunteering among Different Youth subgroups"

Note: Canadian youth aged 18 to 34. Statistical significance of the difference:

*** p<.001; ** p<.01; * p<.05 (reference category: in dark blue).