Saturday, November 26, 2011

On avoidable barriers

Plenty of others have already commented on Elections Canada's National Youth Survey Report. But I'll take a moment to highlight a couple of the findings that look particularly significant as the NDP works to build up turnout among younger voters in the years to come.

First, there's the media breakdown as to which younger citizens are likely to vote:
Youth who voted reported being influenced by politicians, especially if they had been contacted directly by a party or candidate.

Those who discussed politics with their family, both while growing up and currently, were more likely to vote.

Youth who used TV as their main source of information about the election were less likely to vote.
The former points only reinforce the importance of making direct contact with voters generally. But the part that strikes me as most interesting in the predictors of turnout is the reduced activity among those who got their information from TV - which seems over the last few election cycles to have offered about the worst possible ratio of direct party spin to substantive discussion compared to other sources of information.

Of course, it's generally taken as received wisdom that major TV ad spending is about as vital a component of a successful campaign as any - and it may well be true that a party can't afford to do anything less than fight to a draw in terms of TV ad saturation. But I'd be curious as to whether there's a chance to get far better use out of election spending by reaching voters through other means - including both more personal ones, and more informative ones.

Which brings us to Elections Canada's findings as to how non-voters explain not participating:
The most commonly cited reasons for not voting related to personal circumstances – being too busy with work, school or family, or travelling at the time – and insufficient knowledge about the parties, candidates and issues.
Now, it's easy enough to say there shouldn't be any excuse for any voter who doesn't reach information on party and media sites alike around election time. But then, the dizzying amount of content that suddenly surfaces for a month during an election campaign might seem all the more daunting for somebody who isn't in touch with the political scene otherwise - meaning that a concerted effort to reach out to younger voters with even a modest amount of ongoing information might make it easier to convince them that they know enough to have a positive effect in casting a ballot.

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