Political apathy — or Politikverdrossenheit, as Germans might say — remains the primary reason for not voting among Canadians, according to a new survey.
More than one third of non-voters (35 per cent) told Statistics Canada that they were “not interested in politics” when asked about their reasons for not voting in the 2019 federal election.
“This was the most common reason for all age groups, with the exception of those aged 75 and older, who were most likely to indicate that they did not vote due to an illness or disability,” it says in an accompanying analysis.
Just over three-quarters (77 per cent) of Canadians reported voting in the 2019 federal election, unchanged from the 2015 election.
Other factors for non-voting include being busy (22 per cent), having an illness or disability (13 per cent), or being out of town (11 per cent). These three factors grouped under the larger heading of everyday life reasons were more likely to discourage women than men from voting. Men, in contrast, were more likely to say that they are “not interested in politics.”
The survey, which amounts to a sociology of the voting public, or the non-voting public depending on perspective, underscores several broader trends.
First, young people are less likely to vote than older people, even as turnout among younger people has gone up. In 2011, 55 per cent of individuals aged 18 to 24, the youngest group of eligible voters, voted. By 2015, the share rose to 67 per cent, only to stagnate at 68 per cent in 2019. By comparison, 80 per cent of individuals aged 55 to 64 voted in 2011. That figure rose to 83 per cent in 2015, dropping to 81 per cent in 2019.
Second, naturalized Canadian citizens are not less likely to vote than their natural-born peers. In fact, the figures suggest that naturalized citizens are more willing to embrace democratic norms and procedures than their natural-born peers.
In 2011, 55 per cent of citizens naturalized 1o years or less after immigration voted. By 2019, that share had risen to 72 per cent. The share is even higher for naturalized citizens more than 10 years since immigration with 75 per cent in 2019. In 2011, 70 per cent of Canadian citizens by birth voted, in 2015 and 2019 was figure was 78 per cent, on par with figures for naturalized citizens.
This said, supporters of electoral reform will likely not find much joy in the survey. Five per cent of non-voters cited the electoral process as the reason for not voting, including not being able to prove their identity or address, a lack of information about the voting process, or issues with the voter information card.
Supporters of electoral reform had previously argued that turnout would increase if Canada were replace its first-past-the-post system with a more proportional system.
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