Study Shows Importance of Young Voters in the Upcoming Election

The KSA President and BCFS Chairperson explain the significance of young voters in 2019

(Braden Klassen)

The British Columbia Federation of Students recently released a report entitled The Youth Vote: Why Young Voters Can’t Be Ignored, detailing a number of reasons why the younger demographic of eligible voters in Canada will be more important in determining the outcome of the upcoming federal election.

In summary, the report shows a steady increase of young voter turnout in the last three provincial elections, as well as a record number of young voters in the 2015 federal election.

According to the report’s executive summary, “electoral success is beginning to rely more heavily on the ‘youth vote.’” It also explains that, “despite the false narrative that young people are apathetic, Millennials continue to prove that they are engaged on matters of great importance, such as climate change, affordability, human rights, and economic opportunity.”

It’s a narrative which KSA President David Piraquive says politicians use as a “scapegoat” in order to “ignore the issues that matter to students” and youth in general.

“They’ll say, ‘Well, you guys don’t vote, so we can’t really focus on your issues,’” he says.

Piraquive says that “youth voters were pretty much the main reason” that the Liberals won the federal election in 2015—an election which saw an 18.3 per cent increase (38.8 to 57.1 per cent) in young voter turnout from 2011.

“I’m hoping that during this election we see similar numbers, and that politicians finally start listening to the issues that matter to us,” he says.

Overall, the BCFS report aims to serve as both a “warning” and “an opportunity” for campaigns, pundits, the media, and elected officials to take heed on the agency that young voters hold when it comes to election results, both locally and federally.

“I think we have noticed a big difference this time around,” says Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BCFS. “Whether it’s with politicians or with media, we have not had to do as much mythbusting this time around.”

Klassen is referring to a stereotype of the apathetic young voter, which the report calls a form of “voter suppression.”

“Most people are going, ‘Okay, young people are voting. What do they care about?’ rather than ‘Tell us why young people don’t vote,’” says Klassen.

The report calls this behaviour voter suppression because “telling a group of citizens who have clearly demonstrated their desires to participate in the electoral system … that their vote will not matter because not enough of their peers vote is not only false, but harmful.”

“We mention in the research document that young people often feel like they’re left out of the electoral systems or that they don’t know enough, because historically, political parties haven’t reached out to young people,” Klassen says.

The report also includes statistics gathered from Abacus Data and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations which show that students’ top five priorities going into the upcoming election are, in order, “creating job opportunities for young Canadians; making college and university more affordable; dealing with climate change and the environment; making housing more affordable; and improving Canada’s health care system.”

The BCFS has been translating this data into messaging for its campaign titled Our Time Is Now, which aims to empower young people—especially first-time voters—to vote.

However, many young people find it more difficult than their older demographics to access helpful information about candidates and political platforms, which makes them significantly less likely to vote.

“We’re trying to make sure that people have the knowledge that they need to participate in conversations or read through platforms, and try to make sure that people know that [young voters] make up 37 per cent of the electorate, which is the largest cohort in this election,” Klassen says.

“We have agency and we have power, and we shouldn’t feel disenfranchised by the system, because we are the ones who are actually going to make the change in this election.”

You can pledge and register to vote, as well as access information on how and where to vote, political parties, and their platforms, and more at the BCFS-run website ourtimeisnow.ca

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