Students are not apathetic : Editorial

Young people have good reasons not to vote

Image of Canadians marching with flags against Proroguing Parliament.at a Vancouver Rally

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. Vancouver Rally 2010 | Photo: Jess Sloss , CC

Every election, there seems to be a widely reported theme around the youth and student vote. That is, that youth, young adults, and students don’t vote and the problem is their apathy.

But the heart of this issue is not student apathy. If students are not tuned into election issues, there are good reasons for tuning out.

It is true that students and youth are less likely to vote. A report from Elections Canada following the 2011 Election noted that voting among young adults in Canada has been “declining for many years” and is a significant cause of general voter decline in Canada.

The main reasons identified for this lack of young voter turnout include: eligible young voters are too busy with work, school, and their families, and some say they don’t know enough about the issues, candidates, and parties to cast a ballot.

Some may argue that if students and young people cared more about political issues, then they would make the time to learn about the campaigns, candidates, and parties.

But when they are not engaged by politicians, young voters feel left out of electoral politics and this is why they choose not to vote.

A 2015 report by Samara Canada, a not-for-profit democracy research organization, is evidence of this. The study shows that one of the main reasons eligible young voters participate less in voting then older demographics is that voters who are 30 years old and under are far less likely to be contacted and engaged by politicians than voters over the age of 30.

Students and youth are carrying their political weight and then some. Outside of voting, younger Canadians are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to be active politically active, finds the report. Activities where younger Canadians were found to be outperforming their older counterparts include going to protests, organizing political events, and participating in community-related work.

So let’s drop this idea of disengaged young voters. It does not account for the vibrant political movements driven by young people, such as Quebec’s 2012 student led strike, which garnered worldwide attention while bringing hundreds and thousands of people into the streets. It does not account for the student-dominated fossil fuel divestment campaigns, which have led to 450 institutions divesting around $2.6 trillion from oil and gas-related funds.

If politicians and political parties want young voters’ support, they have to engage students early, often, and not just at election time. Otherwise, students will put their political energy elsewhere.

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Students are not apathetic : Editorial