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Canadian youth voters more engaged in politics

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Justin Trudeau addresses the crowd at a campaign stop in South Vancouver on Sept. 10, 2015. Photo by Jake Wray.

Reported by Tanner Bokor

Voter apathy among youth in Canada is on the decline as young people are finding new ways to engage in the political process.

According to Elections Canada, in the last Canadian federal election, youth voter turnout increased 18.3 per cent from 38.8 per cent of registered voters aged 18 to 24 in 2011 to 57.1 percent. Total voter turnout also increased by 7.6 to 66.1 per cent of eligible Canadian voters.

Youth are finding new ways to contribute instead of voting

Terri Evans, an urban studies professor from SFU, says the way that millennials engage with civics isn’t necessarily in the form of casting a ballot.

“Young people participate in other ways that are beyond the ballot box that give them more of a sense of connection with their effort and the result, that gives them a sense of immediacy, that they might rally for specific causes that they may see as really urgent to themselves” Evans said.

“I think that will eventually translate to participation at the ballot box, but some of this will come with the life cycle,” she said.

In a report by Samara Canada – a non-profit group that encourages public engagement in the democratic process – youth voter apathy in Canada is on the decline. According to the group’s research conducted after the 2015 federal election, 92 per cent of youth aged 18 to 29 felt that they had a stake in the issues being discussed, and for 49 per cent of respondents, said that they had a social obligation to vote.

Voter apathy amongst youth should increase soon

David Moscrop, a UBC PhD candidate in political science, says the turnout this cycle is more of a bump than a trend, and that we should expect turnout to cool in the next election.

“Change elections inspire people, they mobilize people. Status quo elections don’t,” Moscrop said. “The more comfortable people are with the state of their democracy; you’d expect that turnout would be reflected higher. But actually, they tend to stay home, as they consider that the stakes are lower.”

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