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Experts challenge the myths of youth apathy

by Shari Graydon

The engagement of younger voters in the current election campaign may be the kind of game-changer that not even the polls can predict. (I’ve seen little acknowledgement of this in media reporting of polls, but very few under-30s own the land lines still relied upon by lots of pollsters, so younger voters’ intentions are even less predictable than those of older demographics).

Earlier this week, Global reported on youth engagement in politics and relied on the expertise of two Informed Opinions alumni to do so. Heather Bastedo, Research and Project Director at Samara in Toronto has been studying the issue for the past four years, and Janni Aragon teaches political science at the University of Victoria.

Both provided helpful context challenging the so-called issue of youth apathy:

“They’re not actually as apathetic as we might think,” said Bastedo. “This young generation is more likely to protest, more likely to sign a petition, more likely to join a social movement than many previous generations.” Youth are engaged in politics, just not in elections.

She puts much of the blame for declining youth turnout not on young people themselves, but on the political parties and the political system. “At McDonald’s, if youth no longer wanted to buy hamburgers, they wanted to buy salads, they would make salads. But in the political context, we say, ‘My gosh. There’s something wrong with young people.’ Where else would we do that?” asked Bastedo.

Janni Aragon, a professor of political science at the University of Victoria, said that practical considerations sometimes keep youth from voting as well. Students have visited her office to ask how to cast their ballot because they do not know where to vote or how to do it.

Political parties also ignore youth, she said, because, “They don’t have the money to donate in the same numbers as other do. They’re great for putting flyers on windshields, for hammering in signs on the side of highways, for getting staff hours, but actually writing checks?”

You can read the entire article here: Inspiring Canada’s youth to vote

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