Decision BC: Will the youth show up to vote?

Decision BC: Will the youth show up to vote?

It’s a chronic problem in Canadian elections: young voters simply don’t turn out to the polls.

That changed somewhat in the 2015 federal election when turnout for voters under the age of 35 spiked to about 57 per cent – a jump of 12 to 20 per cent.

But will that trend carry over to this year’s provincial election? UBC Political Science professor Richard Johnston says it’s no slam dunk.

“The ingredient that’s missing this year, compared to 2015, is Justin Trudeau. I don’t think there’s anybody on the landscape who is going to draw first-time voters, or people who would be otherwise not be voting. So it strikes me that the age profile is likely to be quite similar to previous elections.”

It’s a question that looms large for the BC NDP, hoping for its first crack at power in a decade and a half.

A recent exclusive Ipsos CKNW/Global News poll found 40 per cent of voters under 35 support the party, compared to just 26 per cent backing the BC Liberals.

The problem? In 2013, just 42 per cent of voters in that age bracket showed up to the polls. Sixty-one per cent of voters older than 35 turned out.

Johnston says finding a way to reach these voters could be make or break for the opposition parties hoping to break through.

“It’s really important, as it would be I surmise for the Greens. There’s a sense in which the left, or the centre left, have some territory there to exploit. But you know, it’s hard to get young voters out to the polls.”

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But while Johnston says parties will likely have to exploit some new methods like technology to help identify and track voters to get a youth turnout bump, he says there are other factors at play that could help.

For example, he says there is some research which shows once someone has voted, they’re more likely to vote in future elections, though says it’s still unclear whether that carries from the federal to provincial arena.

And he says there are possible demographic factors at play, with many millennials now aging into a bracket of voters more likely to show up at the polls.

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