Ottawa

Politics these days

While pollsters try to adjust for the demographics of voting, Ilona Dougherty defends the young non-voter.

You’ve probably heard the rote statistic about how only 37 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 cast a ballot in the 2008 federal election, compared with 68 per cent of those over 65. But here’s something you may not have heard: during that same election, the majority of youth were not contacted in any way by a candidate or political party. What about the 65-plus crowd? Well, 69 per cent of them were contacted directly, by my calculations, using the Canadian Opinion Research Archive. When young Canadians aren’t being consistently asked to participate, it’s hardly surprising that they don’t turn out for elections.

Robert Asselin frets on a number of fronts.

By presenting 120-second reports that focus mostly on controversies, the media is for the most part exacerbating the negative feelings people have towards the political class. Newsrooms have become production lines. Twenty-four hour news comes with ridiculous deadlines for journalists. There are a lot of punchy headlines, but less and less rigorous analysis.

Because politics has become for too many a childish partisan game – and because it is being reported as such – less people are tuning in. To be sure, watching the spectacle of John Baird –- the diplomat-in-chief playing the role of pit-bull-in-chief –answering questions in the Commons is enough to discredit all politicians. When my graduate students watch Question Period, they are all turned off. They regard it as a bad joke.

But Colby Cosh dissents from the turnout crisis.

The true place of the Turnout Nerd in the media ecosystem is to fill space—to give us something to talk and worry and argue about in the absence of authentic information about what stirrings and yearnings lie behind the raw vote totals. But the Nerd, with his worrywart ways focused on one principle of political health, may be having the same destructive effects on our political life as any other fundamentalist or monomaniac. These people are the orthorexics of politics. Ask Kenneth Arrow: the creation of a political system is always a balancing act between virtues, a compromise, a kludge. Greater political “engagement” and “involvement” are vague virtues at best; and more “excitement” is, if you ask me, an indubitable positive vice.