Ottawa

Just ask

Ilona Dougherty argues that civics classes aren’t the answer and again stresses the need to actively court young voters the way other age groups are courted.

So what does work? The answer is simple: Ask young people to vote. Elections Canada’s survey results show that young people who were contacted by a political party were significantly more likely to cast a ballot than those who weren’t (83 per cent versus 68 per cent). Having a parent, friend, or roommate who talks about politics also makes young person more likely to participate. There are dozens of rigorous field experiments that reinforce the same basic conclusion: if you ask them, they will vote.

This type of active mobilization is important because young Canadians are currently the group least likely to be solicited: only 40 per cent of them were contacted in any way by a party or candidate during the last federal election. Changing that is a crucial part of any comprehensive strategy, and that means changing what political parties, NGOs, and community organizations do in order to mobilize young voters.