I dread elections for several reasons, but the main sore point for me is that I end up having to watch old people slander me for a month and a half. Every election, pundits joyously proclaim that my generation isn’t interested in politics, and they cite all sorts of wonderful studies and crow about their superiority and then they don’t do anything about it. They don’t even seem to care what’s driving the disparity in voter turnout; obviously, the only reason that we turn out is lower numbers is because we’re lazy, and there’s no need to probe any deeper than that into the issue.
I’m a young person, and I’ve voted in every single federal, provincial and municipal election I could since I hit legal age. I’m not a rarity, either, so I think the old fogeys at the CBC and at CTV need to stop being such dicks about the decrease in youth voter turnout. They’ll take advantage of any opportunity to complain about how our generation is lazy* or that the internet is killing society (because young people use it, obvs). That’s not productive at all. Instead, let’s accept this information (lower voter turnout among younger people) without blaming young people and without making ridiculous and baseless assumptions about Kids These Days.
I’m making a list of possible reasons why youth in Canada don’t turn out in the numbers that other age groups do. If we can pinpoint the reason, that will help us solve the problem. Here is what I have so far:
- Getting to the polls is more difficult if you don’t have a car or a bike. Urban sprawl may be hitting a point where polling stations are further away than people are willing to walk. I’m fortunate in that I live about a 5-minute walk from mine, so it’s not a big deal that I don’t own a car, but that’s probably not the case for everyone. If older voters have cars and younger voters don’t, younger voters far from polling stations may be more likely to stay home.
- Youth aren’t the heads of households, so canvassers may be ignoring them entirely when going door to door.
- Young people are more likely to own cell phones than a home phone. Cell numbers may not be listed as frequently in the phone book, meaning that canvassing by phone may not reach them either.
- Youth may not receive political flyers (the sort that list a candidate’s campaign platform) because they’ve moved out of their parents’ house and haven’t forwarded their mail.
- If you’re living in a different area from where you’re registered, you may not get your form in the mail.
- Youth may be better at blocking out advertising, meaning that political advertising and spam mailers may be less effective at making them aware of election dates and protocols, as well as party platforms.
- Aside from having a Facebook page and sending out a few tweets around budget time, not enough effort is made to communicate with voters over the Internet.
- Alienation due to negative coverage.
- Politics is discussed in boring terms, natch. I will battle anyone who claims that my generation is lazier than the baby boomers, but I will acknowledge that I have the attention span of a mustard seed.
- Lack of policies targeting youth. If none of the parties plan to do anything about youth issues, it makes no difference to the youth vote which one is elected.
- Our generation is much more diverse than the last generation, but our politicians don’t reflect that diversity. This leads to further alienation and further apathy.
- Baby boomers had parents who were willing to give their lives for their country; we had parents who were willing to smoke a lot of weed and read beat poetry. This might have an effect on our level of engagement and our appreciation for democracy.
- Baby boomers grew up during the cold war, which could have lead to an Us-vs-Them mentality that increased political engagement. Politics seems like it was a lot more fun back then, with prime ministers pirouetting around all over the place and PM wives partying with the Stones. The most interesting thing about Stephen Harper is the possibility that he might be a robot.
- The youth vote is likely more urban, with younger people moving into the cities at the beginning of their careers and then moving out when they want to start a family. If this is the case, their votes might actually be worth less than the votes of older people, because these urban ridings have higher population numbers.
- We’ve seen a pile of elections in only the last few years, so voting may feel pointless.
- If you’re young and you don’t earn enough money yet to pay taxes, you may not end up on the list of electors.
I welcome any other suggestions of explanations. Let’s fix this!
* You see, the generation before us broke the economy, but it’s not their fault that we can’t find jobs and have to move back in with our parents, it’s our fault because we’re lazy. That’s how it works. We can’t find jobs because of laziness.