The Decline Of Electoral Participation Among Young Canadians

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The Decline of Electoral Participation Among Young Canadians Since a robust voter turnout is instrumental to the functioning of a healthy democracy, the ongoing decline of youth voter turnout in Canada is highly alarming. According to the Canadian Election Study, the reported voter turnout among Canadians aged 18 to 24 dropped from 83 percent in 1974 to 60 percent in 2000 (Barnes and Virgint, 2010). The aim of this paper is to explain this decline. While it is generally accepted that people’s propensity to vote increases as they age in their “life-cycle”, it does not provide an adequate explanation for the decline of voter turnout among young Canadians. This paper argues that the decline of youth electoral participation in Canada is, by and large, “generational” in nature – it can be attributed by the underlying characteristics of the youth generation. Young Canadians are more apathetic towards the political process, have a lower level of political knowledge, and view voting as less of a moral obligation than older Canadians and young Canadians in past generations. For the purposes of this paper, young Canadians will be defined broadly as the cohort of Canadians aged 18 to 27. The paper will first briefly explain why a declining youth turnout is problematic to Canadian democracy. It will then refute two prevalent explanations to the decline of the Canadian youth voter turnout that emphasize the role of political cynicism and political parties. Last, it will provide three
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