CASA Report Challenges the Idea that Student Voters are Apathetic

“It would be wise for political parties to commit to investing in the priorities of young people in Canada,” says the report

(Sarah Kraft)

A report recently released by a non-partisan, not-for-profit group called the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) explores “what motivates 18-25 year olds leading up to the federal election.”

The report addresses the myth that young people are too apathetic to go out and vote. One of its first key findings is that, “contrary to common assumption, students aged 18 to 25 are not apathetic.” 

“Ninety-six per cent of students surveyed report that it is important to vote, and 93 per cent plan on voting in the 2019 federal election,” it reads.

Polling reveals that 58 per cent of respondents report either being “extremely motivated” or “reasonably motivated” to vote compared with 12 per cent who reported being “not that motivated” or “not motivated at all.”

Young people just need something to make them feel motivated to vote, according to CASA. Top concerns for students include “creating good job opportunities for young Canadians, making colleges and universities more affordable, dealing with climate change and the environment, making housing more affordable, and improving Canada’s health care system.”

Generally, students are “optimistic” about the future—83 per cent of them, according to the survey. However, 65 per cent report being “worried” about student debt, and 64 per cent report being “worried” about the job market.

Another social issue addressed in the report is the rights of Indigenous people. In Canada, 74 per cent of students surveyed in the report said that the government needs to do “much more than it is today” or “somewhat more than it is today” to increase Indigenous people’s access to post-secondary education.

Student-age Canadians are also concerned about campus safety, especially when it comes to sexual violence. Sixty-six per cent of students report either being “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about this, while 79 per cent think the government needs to be doing much or somewhat more than it is now.

According to the report, the upcoming election will be the first in many years wherein “younger generations in Canada, the Millennials and Generation Z, will be the largest voting group in the electorate.” This group could constitute 8.5 million voters, as predicted by Abacus Data CEO, David Coletto.

“It’s fantastic to have all of these campaigns,” says David Piraquive, President of the Kwantlen Student Association. “But they are all for naught if our peers don’t vote.”

That is why the KSA plans to “engage with peers” through the Get Out the Vote campaign, Piraquive says. KSA-led voting initiatives related to the project include making class announcements, canvassing, and tabling. 

“We’re going to try and host debates on campus, election nights, and send out early information to students about when, how, and where they can vote,” he says.

Piraquive also says that the KSA is looking into making the Surrey campus a ballot station for the 2019 federal election. 

“People often say that they can’t vote because they’re busy with school and work on election days, but that would make it more accessible, if they were able to vote on campus,” he says. 

He continues, “As soon as they announce the election in September, we’ll be ready to roll out all of our campaigns, including better outreach to other campuses.”

Piraquive was involved in voting awareness campaigns for the 2015 federal election and the 2017 provincial election, and feels that the initiatives were “generally successful.”

“Last time, youth voter turnout percentage was 57 per cent, which is really good, but I’d like to see that number even higher,” he says.

The CASA report states, “political parties with a keen interest in winning the election would be wise to commit to investing in the priorities of young people in Canada. Young people have the chance to steer the direction of this country.”