More on fixing the voters: the B.C. evidence

The BC Stats 2009 Elections BC Post-Election Voter/Non-Voter Satisfaction Survey adds some heft, I think, to my post yesterday on the disengagement of younger adults from political life. Only 51 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in British Columbia’s May 12 election, a dismal turnout.

A few key findings of the study (below the jump):

— Older people were much more likely to vote than younger people. Almost half of all voters (49 per cent) were 55 or older, but only 20 per cent of non-voters were that old.

— Asked if they are “interested in what is going on in politics,” 81 per cent of voters said they were, while only 48 per cent of non-voters claimed an interest.

— Why did most non-voters not vote? Fully 35 per cent said they were just too busy, or out of town, or for some other reason couldn’t get to the polls. Another 16 per cent admitted they didn’t know enough; just seven per cent cited pessimism; five per cent said it was inconvenient; and nine per cent had other reasons.

So here’s the picture in very broad strokes. Non-voters tend to be young and uninterested. Very few of them decide not to vote because they reject the choices. Most just can’t be bothered.

There were some insightful comments to my earlier post. But also, with respect, some reflex ones about how young people don’t see anything meaningful in contemporary politics, how the news media don’t present stories about what’s really important in politics, and how parties don’t offer compelling platforms.

All valid points. But the research suggests these factors are not central. The main reasons potential first-time voters don’t bother to turn out have to do with apathy and ignorance, rather than informed alienation.

There’s always a temptation to respond to the points I’ve raised, and the research I’ve cited, by dismissing it all as “kids-these-days” crankiness. But that’s too easy. It might feel better to say, “Hey, the kids are alright,” but that’s not what the evidence tells us.

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