All Posts Tagged With: "voter turnout"
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Historica-Dominion Institute survey has so many problems, it’s impossible to take its conclusions seriously
Youth voting rates doubled on May 2, when compared with the 2008 election, and more than half of those votes went to the NDP, according to a poll released yesterday by the Historica-Dominion Institute.
I’d be willing to believe that more than half of youth votes went to the NDP, but that might be because I live in Montreal and I don’t think I actually know anyone who didn’t vote for the NDP. And while I wouldn’t be surprised if the youth vote-rate increased, I’m a little incredulous about the claim that it rose to 76 per cent, from 37.4 per cent three years ago.
The Canadian Press story about the poll gives some indication of the latter, saying (right at the end) that, “since it was conducted online, it’s impossible to say precisely how exact the poll is.”
But that’s the least of this survey’s problems.
The Historica-Dominion Institute claims the poll is representative of “youth” but that’s not actually the case. The participants are all members of a website, studentawards.com, which claims to help its members obtain university scholarships.
So, in fact, the survey only questioned students and those who intend to go to university in the near future. There’s a big difference between the voting habits of university students and non-student youth.
But even if this survey were being passed off as representative of students, there would be some big problems. The participants were selected from among a group of people who chose to register with a specific website and who opted-in to receiving surveys of this nature. That’s a pretty limited group and one that certainly has some self-selection bias.
The survey also has problems with sample size. Only 812 people across the country participated and while that might sound like a decent number of people, it means some very low sample sizes at the provincial level. In fact, the suvey doesn’t even provide the number of respondents by province for the Prairie (Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nunavut) and Atlantic regions. Fewer than 60 people were survived in each of those regions.
There’s another big problem with post-election surveys, people tend to over-report voting. Post-election surveys, commissioned by Elections Canada, have found that the number of people who claim to have voted, when surveyed, is usually around 20 percentage points higher than the actual voting rate.
While I’d certainly like to find out that youth turnout increased in this election, we’re going to have to wait a little longer to find out what actually happened.
These clowns aren’t funny anymore.
During election campaigns, anyone associated with universities hears a constant rhapsody of hope and despair about student voting. Hope that this will be the year young people finally wise up and exercise their rights as democratic citizens and despair that they will probably just stay home, get high, and play Portal 2 all day.
The normal reasons cited for not voting are usually lame and easily shot down. I don’t know any of the parties or candidates, people say, but it has never been easier to learn who the candidates are and what their positions are, so that’s no excuse. They’re all the same, others lament, but a careful look at the platforms does show discernable differences on issues like, say, corporate tax cuts and public funding for political parties. And if that’s not enough, the pro-vote gang can lay on plenty of patriotic guilt-tripping: there are people dying in other countries right now to have the rights that you are throwing away!
But in a way, that’s why I don’t really want to vote this time, and I’m sure not going to be judgemental of those who choose not to. In one sense, I agree with the democracy boosters. Democracy is a fine and noble institution, born in the fires of classical thought, educated by the enlightenment, fired in the kilns of revolution and civil war, and now, at long last, buried up to its bunghole in Canadian crap.
Democracy in this country is a joke. The leaders of the three major parties are shameless hucksters, churning out policies only to position themselves favourably with the right demographics, and crafting messages they think will resonate. They are patently unwilling to debate serious public policy questions even if they were capable of it. But real positions scare away voters and that’s not how this game (and it is a game to them) is played. And so it is that our politics, devoid of authentic debate has slid quickly and unflatteringly into scandal-mongering and name-calling. Too fearful of proposing real change, political parties bicker over the smallest details of the budget which amount to how many tenths of a percent of our money they will take and how much will they give us back.
One could, of course, vote for the Green Party, but Elizabeth May, shamblingly petite and cursed with an absurd barn-door voice, is the opposite of the other leaders. They are style without substance; she is substance without style. Still, if the Star Wars movies have taught us anything, it’s that great wisdom comes in small hilarious packages, and one could even feel good about voting for May’s Greens (as I have done in recent years) except that a cabal of TV executives won’t give her the national exposure or credibility that comes with the leaders’ debate. And even worse, her party, more than any other, is knee-capped every election by the ridiculously out-of-date first-past-the-post electoral system. And so while May herself might be a joke we could all be in on, the election results will, once again, be a joke that we’ve heard before and wasn’t that funny to begin with.
In short, the argument against voting is that it takes seriously a state of affairs that deserves only mockery. To exercise my solemn and hard-won right to vote feels wrong when the vote is counted by an archaic system that will benefit factionalists who only want to win, not lead, and whose only measure of right is what will sell.
So stop the patronizing insistence that students have to vote. Perhaps the better thing to do is to praise them for their willingness to protest by not voting. Maybe all these young abstainers will grow up to be adult non-voters. In time, the participation rate (whose fall is constantly bemoaned) will drop so low that governments will finally have to recognize that a democracy no one can believe in is no democracy at all.
And out of that despair may finally come a real reason to hope.