On Campus

Young Canadians aren't formally participating in democracy

New report shows how we 'get political' between elections


A new national survey on the ways Canadians “get political” between elections contains good news and bad news about youth participation in democracy.

The good news is that, contrary to the stereotype, people aged 18 to 34 say they are more engaged in civic activities any other age group.

The bad news is that Canadians in general have become “lightweights” when it comes to political participation and that fewer young people bother to formally engage in the party system which, as the report points out, has the power to make the big decisions about how tax dollars are spent.

Young Canadians are more likely than older adults to have circulated, posted, re-posted or embedded political information or content on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and blogs, discussed a political or societal issue face-to-face or over the phone, organized public events or meetings about politics or taken part in demonstrations in the past 12 months, the survey says.

They’re less likely than those aged 35 and older to have contacted an elected official, attended a political meeting, volunteered for an election campaign or belonged to a political party. They’re also less likely to vote. In both of the last two federal elections, only about one-third cast ballots.

“If a healthy democracy requires active participation, then Canada is on pretty shaky ground,” concludes the report. “This is most pronounced when it comes to formal politics, which appears to have lost—or failed to build—cachet with most Canadians, and most critically our young people.”

Lightweights?: Political Participation Beyond the Ballot Box was commissioned by Samara, a non-profit organization that aims to build civic engagement in Canada.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.