Low turnout among voters under 25 only serves to perpetuate the belief that political parties fail to represent young people, says a political science expert.
Youth voter apathy creates a negative feedback loop
Langara political science instructor Paul Prosperi said that young people don’t have a great record of voting and thus are suffering in representation.
“I think what the parties do is they make a cost-benefit analysis of where it’s best to focus their time, their money, and their energy,” Prosperi said. “And that’s with people who have a history of voting.”
Prosperi said that politicians take notice when certain demographics abstain, and that’s why most Canadian political parties underfund their youth wings. During the last B.C. election, only 35 per cent of those 18 to 25 cast a ballot, compared to 74 per cent of those 70 to 75.
“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so they look at voting records, and I think parties make the logical conclusion [not to heavily fund youth wings],” Prosperi said.
Is apathy the cause of low voter turnout?
Prosperi disagrees, however, with labeling youth as disinterested.
“Apathy I don’t think captures it,” Prosperi said. “If you ask young people what they think about issues, they’re engaged but they may not demonstrate that engagement through the ballot box. Young people take part in protests, they take part in social media campaigns and they’re conscious of what’s happening around them.”
Marissa Lawrence, project co-ordinator for the SFU Public Square, is hosting a talk on democracy on March 25. She hopes to inspire prolonged civic engagement among youth, recent immigrants, and low-income citizens.
“Engagement for us means feeling connected with local community issues and feeling connected to one’s own municipal or provincial government,” Lawrence said. “It’s feeling a sense of belonging to the issue at hand and to the structure that can help move that issue forward.”
Lawrence said that the talk aims to go beyond simply recruiting voters, adding that the lecture is about “being able to say ‘this is my government.’”
Students can register to vote at the Elections B.C. website or in the Langara Students’ Union building between noon and 4 p.m.
Reported by James McLaughlin