Youth and Civic Engagement

Youth Engagement – What We Know

  • Youth turnout in federal elections has been declining since the early 1970s, a trend that has driven down the overall turnout rate.
    • In the 2008 federal general election, overall voter turnout reached an all-time low of 58.8%; among youth aged 18 to 24, turnout was 37.4%.
    • In the May 2, 2011, general election, overall turnout increased to 61.1%, while among youth aged 18 to 24, it was 38.8%.
  • Key factors that explain the absence of young citizens at the polls are low levels of political knowledge and interest, and a weaker sense that voting is a civic duty than older age groups.
  • The more knowledgeable and informed youth are about politics, the more likely they are to participate.
    • Elections Canada's National Youth Survey showed that 90% of youth who correctly answered three political questions voted, compared to only 24% of those who had no correct answers.
    • Among youth who did not vote, 46% said not knowing enough about the candidates influenced their decision not to vote.
  • Bridging the knowledge gap is key to creating engaged and informed citizens.

Civic Education – Why It's Important

  • Civic education increases young peoples' knowledge and interest in politics. It encourages them to talk about politics and to become active citizens.
    • Elections Canada's National Youth Survey showed that turnout for youth who discussed politics with their friends was 25 percentage points higher than for those who did not.
    • The survey also showed that turnout was 14 percentage points higher for those who had taken civic education courses compared to those who had not.
  • Once a person decides to vote, they are likely to keep voting – and the more they know about politics, the more likely they are to cast that initial ballot.
  • Teaching civics is important, but the way it is taught is equally important. Real-world, experiential learning – such as mock votes, field trips, visits by elected officials, or community service – is shown to be particularly effective.

Teachers and Parents – Democracy Builders

  • All of us have a role to play in preparing the next generation to become active citizens. But the role of teachers and parents is particularly important.
  • Teachers and parents who facilitate open, informed, meaningful and critical discussions with young citizens are more likely to engage them and prepare them to participate in politics for life.
  • Canada's Democracy Week, held September 16-23, is an opportunity to engage youth in democracy building activities. Visit democracy-democratie.ca for lesson plans and information on the National Democracy Challenge.

More information and interviews:

Elections Canada Media Relations

Link to Elections Canada