Why Do So Many Young Canadians Fail to Vote?



Not 'one of us': understanding how non-engaged youth feel about politics and political leadership
Journal of Youth Studies
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Younger citizens have consistently voted at lower rates than older ones. However, across most advanced democracies, today's youth are voting at lower rates than previous generations of young people.

To help gain a better understanding of this phenomenon, Heather Bastedo conducted 20 focus groups across Canada between 2012 and 2013. Key findings include:

  • Much of the decline in youth voter turnout has been among the less-educated. Voting among young people with university degrees has remained relatively steady while it has dropped over 30% since 1993 for those who failed to complete high school.
  • There was little difference in the generally negative feelings toward politics that both young voters and non-voters have. Both groups had little confidence that they 'would be heard or included in political affairs'.
  • Far from being apathetic, non-voters had many political concerns that were concrete and impacted them directly. But these concerns tended to be more local and often personal and thus were fairly unique to each community.
  • Non-voters believe that politicians 'talk at them, not to them' and have little or no understanding of the challenges and issues that they face day-to-day.
  • In addition to finding their issues ignored, many non-voters find the language used by politicians and the media that cover them to be intentionally inaccessible

Bastedo concludes that 'disengaged youth are not asking for much more than basic representation' and calls for political leaders to 'make an effort to include youth issues in their party platforms and speak to young people in accessible language'.


Thumbnail image: CileSuns92/Flickr


Heather Bastedo

Queen's University

Published Date
June 1, 2015