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