By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
“No more Mr. Nice Guy’ – The “positive campaign” as a strategy in the face of relentless attacks does not work, especially when the ballot question winds up being leadership. Everyone remembers the 2012 Obama campaign as positive, but seems to forget that a brutal series of negative ads against Mitt Romney six months earlier paved the way for their positive end-game. Voters (especially women) might tell focus groups ahead of time that they don’t like negative attacks and prefer positive campaign ads, but that feedback is given in isolation from exposure to the other campaign. Once you get into an election period, with the two main campaigns running in parallel, if one campaign is constantly attacking you, turning the other cheek looks wimpy…
“Anger is better than love, and fear works better than hope” – In the chaotic and frenzied info-saturated world electoral campaigns now have to function within, strong negative emotions repeated endlessly cut through the clutter if they’re not answered better with strong communications and marketing. The BC Liberal campaign was able to change the ballot question for enough people from ‘time for a change’ to ‘fear of weak leadership’, while the hopeful kids who wanted ‘change for the better’ did not seem to feel it necessary to vote.
And then there are the kids these days…
“The lessons are different for right and left” – Conservative parties received confirmation last night that they are right to stay in their own bubble and mistrust the ‘analysis’ coming from the policy wonks in the media (or, evidently, me). They learned that they can speak to their core supporters, who have very different demographics and values, and ignore everyone else. Ranking the BC ridings by turnout shows the older, wealthier ridings near 60% turnout, and the less-well-off, younger ridings down in the low 40s. The turnout bonus for conservative parties is apparently accelerating, as well, going from a 3- or 4-point gap in the 2011 federal race to a 10-point gap last night in BC. Ten ridings were decided by less than 3.7% of the vote, and while under BC elections law there are six kinds of absentee ballots that won’t be counted until May 27 which could conceivably change the outcome in several of those seats, it was not closeness of the race but turnout that was decisive in explaining last night’s historic upset. If the traditional demographic bases of support for progressive parties do not vote in sufficient numbers, they will become increasingly powerless to effect other changes in their society.
The federal New Democrats and Liberals might have plans that don’t include attracting a large number of young voters, but their respective causes likely become easier to realize if either wins the strong support of those under the age of 30 and, importantly, if that age group votes in significant numbers. Barack Obama narrowly lost the vote to Mitt Romney among voters over the age of 30, but he won 60% of the vote among those under the age of 30. And voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19% of the American electorate in 2012.
I can’t find directly comparable numbers, but Elections Canada has estimated that voters between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 20% of the Canadian electorate in the 2011 election. Votes among those 18 to 24 were estimated to be up slightly from 2008, but both the 18-to-24 group and the 25-to-34 group voted at a rate below the national average.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 20, 2012 at 2:17 PM - 0 Comments
Stephane Dion’s speech on electoral reform to the Green party convention this past weekend.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM - 0 Comments
More than 80 per cent of registered voters are casting their ballots
As Sunday’s final round of presidential voting approaches in France, only one thing seems certain: turnout will be high. With incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy polling in a dead heat with his socialist challenger, François Hollande, it may even surpass the first round of voting two weeks ago, when more than 80 per cent of registered voters cast ballots. Few Western elections see anywhere near this degree of enthusiasm: in Canada, barely 60 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots in last year’s federal election, while the U.K. saw a slightly better turnout of 65 per cent in 2010.
The fact that it’s a tight race certainly helps, says Lawrence LeDuc, a University of Toronto expert on voter behaviour, but that’s just part of the story. “Presidential elections are a big deal in France,” he says, because citizens vote directly for a president, whereas Brits and Canadians don’t cast ballots for a prime minister. LeDuc also credits proportional representation, which, during parliamentary elections, gives voters the sense every vote counts. And the French, LeDuc adds, simply have a strong culture of political participation—a revolutionary holdover. There, it seems, the principle of citizenship still manages to excite.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 8:11 PM - 0 Comments
A few weeks ago, Eric Duhaime wrote an op-ed for QMI arguing for a voting age of 16 in Canada. I’m a leading ridiculer of this idea, partly because the same people who propose it are the same nerds who worry endlessly about low voter-turnout figures. It so happens our voter-turnout figures are low by historical standards partly because we made a decision, in 1970, to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. Lowering the cutoff still further as a cure for perceived turnout malaise is like doubling a dose of poison. I shouldn’t single out Duhaime here, but… well, let’s single him out, because he wrote this: Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 4 Comments
Elections Canada has released its national survey of young adults. Three-quarters of them claim to be voting and they generally seem okay with the state of things.
There were reasonably high levels of satisfaction among the youth surveyed with the way democracy works in Canada, with 53% of youth being somewhat satisfied and a further 17% very satisfied. … A key difference between voters and non-voters was that voters were more likely to have agreed that the government plays a major role in their lives compared to non-voters (81% versus 62%, respectively).
Youth voters were more likely than non-voters to identify with a political party and to feel that by voting they could make a difference. Nearly all voters (95%) agreed that there was at least one political party that talked about the issues that they felt were important, compared to fewer (85%), but still a high proportion, of non-voters. When youth were asked whether they felt that by voting they could make a difference, 88% of voters agreed, compared to 72% of non-voters. Most youth, both voters and non-voters, disagreed that all federal political parties were the same (85% of voters and 76% of non-voters).
Setting aside the obviously dubious self-reporting of voter turnout, the report gets at what’s driving the decline in voter turnout: lack of knowledge, lack of interest, lack of relevance and, as Apathy is Boring has argued, a lack of direct engagement.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 11, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 25 Comments
Kate Chappell considers the Occupy movement and the act of voting.
A sign I saw this weekend at the Occupy Ottawa camp said something to the effect of voting as an institution being broken. But if the majority of us do not engage in the activities required of us by this institution, how can we fairly and accurately assess its effectiveness? I argue that we cannot begin to do so. It is ironic that the Occupiers’ main message calls for an end to inequality. Voting is the activity most blind to socio-economic status and a free, convenient means of registering one’s preferences..
Many of the Occupiers seem to be partial to anything but what we have now. In fact, many seem partial to an anarchic or communistic system. But let’s back up a minute. What if they had all voted in the last federal election? We would likely have a different prime minister.
Jeff Jedras previously quibbled with the suggestion the the Occupiers would simply be better off voting.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 1 Comment
Jane Hilderman argues that people won’t vote if they don’t think the system is truly accountable.
As we are learning from our focus groups, more important to Canadians, who are less likely to participate, is a government that listens when a problem arises, works to fix it, and keeps promises it made. On this they were resoundingly clear: improve the legitimacy of our existing institutions (and by extension politicians, too) through better responsiveness and accountability. The rest will take care of itself.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 10:41 AM - 9 Comments
Kate Chappell relates a tale from the polling station.
Civic education from an early age is also a key to raising citizens that are interested in voting. Throughout the day, teachers escorted groups of children (we were stationed at an elementary school in a massive, unheated gymnasium) through the voting station. They seemed to pay attention as the Supervising Deputy Returning Officer explained the voting process. The best question, to which absolutely no one had an answer was: “What happens if nobody votes?”
A question to those who aren’t presently moved by the decline in voting turnout might be a version of that: how much lower can turnout get before the legitimacy of the entire exercise falls into doubt?
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 12:04 PM - 47 Comments
You’ve probably heard the rote statistic about how only 37 per cent of Canadians aged 18-24 cast a ballot in the 2008 federal election, compared with 68 per cent of those over 65. But here’s something you may not have heard: during that same election, the majority of youth were not contacted in any way by a candidate or political party. What about the 65-plus crowd? Well, 69 per cent of them were contacted directly, by my calculations, using the Canadian Opinion Research Archive. When young Canadians aren’t being consistently asked to participate, it’s hardly surprising that they don’t turn out for elections.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 7:08 AM - 95 Comments
Get ready for the Voter Turnout Nerds: you’ll be hearing from them today. Oh yes. It would not be like them to stay silent after an Ontario election in which fewer than half of technically eligible voters appear to have cast a ballot. The Turnout Nerds don’t care who won or who lost: they care about the mathematical purity of the electoral exercise. They’ll be everywhere you look in the media, ready with their diagnoses and their nostrums and, most of all, their disapproval.
It’s not the people who have let us down, they’ll tell us; it’s the government that has let the people down, fostering apathy (most heinous of all political sins) by failing to implement Brilliant Idea X or Salutary Scheme Y. But at what point do the people, apparently so deaf to the allure of electoral reforms and renovations, stop believing the Turnout Nerd’s comforting assurances of goodwill? Nothing seems to raise the holy quantity of Turnout very effectively. Any momentary rise seems to be followed by a more precipitate plunge. Are the electorate and the Turnout Nerds headed toward a frightful mutual collision with terrible truths about democracy?
Seven provinces, including Ontario, have adopted fixed election dates, partly as a response to the Turnout Problem. When the Harper government introduced fixed dates in 2006—we all remember how well that turned out, don’t we?—this was one of the stated goals: “One objective of setting fixed election dates is maximizing voter turnout.” Dozens of experts and quasi-experts made this argument, and we now have data from enough fixed-date elections to venture a conclusion on this noble experiment:
Prov Elxn Change in Turnout BC May 17 2005 +2.8% PE May 28 2007 +0.5% NL Oct 9 2007 -9.5% ON Oct 10 2007 -4.1% BC May 12 2009 -7.2% NB Sept 27 2010 +4.0% PE Oct 3 2011 -7.4% MB Oct 4 2011 +0.7% ON Oct 6 2011 -5.2%* NL Oct 11 2011 ? SK Nov 7 2011 ? *early estimate
[Points thumb downward, blows raspberry]
As provinces scrambled pell-mell to adopt fixed election dates, a few sociologists and political scientists pointed out that our municipal governments already have them—and that turnouts in Canadian municipal elections, possibly as a consequence, are feeble. Fixed election dates are also a characteristic of American electoral systems, as are pathetic turnouts at every level.
And what else do Canadian municipal elections and U.S. federal and state elections have in common? Huge incumbency advantages. Fixed dates are supposed to relieve a crucial advantage of incumbents in traditional Canadian elections, yet it’s the damnedest thing—if my math is right, incumbents won seven of the nine fixed-date elections in that table, and are extremely likely to be 9-for-11 a month from now. (I wouldn’t recommend establishing any crazy expectations about increased turnout in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, either.)
Did we make a boo-boo? Did our democracy slip on a banana peel? Turnout Nerds sought fixed-date elections in the name of their obsession with voting as a simplistic moral imperative: it is starting to appear not only as if they failed on their own terms, but that their tonic for democracy may have had unanticipated, or at least undisclosed, side-effects. The Nerds’ next crusade will probably be for electronic voting, and if you think citizens are cynical about electoral politics now, wait until the apparatus falls into the hands of the people who gave the world golden hits like PC LOAD LETTER and PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA.
It is not that the Turnout Nerds have some vast constituency of voters who share their concern. Voter turnout is the kind of imaginary issue that spurs people to parrot pieties to pollsters, but the turnout itself is a perfect revealed-preference measure of how much people actually care. Aside from a few unfortunates who slip and fall or get hit by buses on their way to the polls, there can be almost no such thing as a person who is really concerned about turnout, but who stays home on Election Day. We all have near-total control over whether we turn out or not. The cost of going to the polls is pretty much zero. So the issue, if there is an issue, must be that a lot of people think that voting isn’t even worth the zero—that they personally accomplish nothing or less than nothing by voting: not even the reinforcement of a useful social norm or the cultivation of a private sense of satisfaction. Some of them are surely right about this.
The true place of the Turnout Nerd in the media ecosystem is to fill space—to give us something to talk and worry and argue about in the absence of authentic information about what stirrings and yearnings lie behind the raw vote totals. But the Nerd, with his worrywart ways focused on one principle of political health, may be having the same destructive effects on our political life as any other fundamentalist or monomaniac. These people are the orthorexics of politics. Ask Kenneth Arrow: the creation of a political system is always a balancing act between virtues, a compromise, a kludge. Greater political “engagement” and “involvement” are vague virtues at best; and more “excitement” is, if you ask me, an indubitable positive vice.
So can we start politely ignoring the Turnout Nerd? Heck, I won’t even insist on the “politely” part.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 11:38 AM - 55 Comments
The per-vote annual funding for federal political parties is the most democratic part of the federal political finance system because the funding is handed out based on the actual support from voters each party receives in the election.
Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Québec all have per-vote funding of political parties for this reason.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 1:36 PM - 12 Comments
According to a Statistics Canada survey, 27.7%
of Canadians confessed to not voting in the last election because they weren’t interestedof those who didn’t vote in the last election identified a lack of interest as the reason for their failure to do so.*
On the subject of apathy, you might add the 22.9% (of non-voters) who claimed to be “too busy” to vote, but let’s stick with the admittedly apathetic for a moment. The demographic breakdowns of that group are as follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 1:33 PM - 14 Comments
Canada’s 150th birthday bash in 2017 could highlight the fun and symbolic — such as a nationwide hockey tournament and a cross-country canoe pageant — but could also involve serious policy changes, such as lowering the voting age to 16 or instituting mandatory voting, newly obtained public documents show…
Bureaucrats reckon 2017 could be an opportunity to reopen debate on Canadian federalism. ”This discussion has been held for boomers (in the ’80s and ’90s), but it’s not closed yet,” officials write. “By 2017, a whole new generation will have a whole new outlook.” Jeremy Diamond, director of the Historica Dominion Institute, expressed support for democratic reform initiatives. He said the 18-24 age range is ripe for increased political participation, and that Canada’s 150th could be an ideal time to restart the constitution debate.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM - 38 Comments
I ran these sorts of numbers a few years ago, so, for the sake of argument, here are this year’s election results as a measure not of votes cast, but of total possible votes (based on the preliminary result of 61.4% turnout).
That would give the new government the fourth-smallest mandate in history. Or, put more positively, that gives the new government a larger mandate than the governments elected in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
The mandate won by Robert Borden in 1917—42.8% of all possible votes—remains the undisputed champion of this academic exercise.
By Erica Alini - Monday, May 16, 2011 at 11:37 AM - 21 Comments
Alice Funke takes apart the strategic voting movement.
I think it’s time to say that these projects are not politically sophisticated enough to get their calls correct, and while they get a lot of people engaged in our democracy, which I can’t ever be opposed to, they do so under false pretenses: namely that you can know the outcome in a riding ahead of time, and game the system to your own ends.
The record of the two main strategic voting campaigns in 2011 proves that you cannot.
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM - 73 Comments
A survey of young people conducted by Historica-Dominion Institute finds support for the NDP.
The survey found that with the exception of Alberta, the NDP beat out other parties for the youth vote (24% said they would vote for NDP pre-election, 44% said they did) and was most likely to speak to youth issues (46%) as compared to CPC (23%) and Liberals (16%). Harper’s focus on the economy won points with young voters (who report it as a top issue) but attack ads were seen unfavourably while disrespect for democracy had only a minor impact on image. Ignatieff was punished for perceived poor leadership and personality while Layton was most liked for his platform, personality and the NDP “surge” story.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM - 17 Comments
Conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool and NDP strategist Brian Topp dispute the vote-splitting conventional wisdom.
The Conservatives and the NDP won their seats with, on average, large pluralities and considerable margins over the party that finished second – which was usually not the Liberals. Across Ontario, within the GTA and in British Columbia – the battlegrounds of the election – the Conservatives and NDP increased their vote, had large pluralities or outright majorities across the seats that they won.
By Philippe Gohier - Friday, May 6, 2011 at 4:57 PM - 7 Comments
Apathy is Boring’s Ilona Dougherty wrote this before election day, so now it seems prescient.
Why are young Canadians today casting ballots at approximately half the rate they did in the 1960s? The answer is surprisingly simple: because we aren’t asking them to vote. There is conclusive evidence showing that nothing is more effective at mobilizing voters than personal contact. Simply knocking on doors increases voter turnout between seven and 10 percentage points, and this is true among youth, as well. This type of on-the-ground, face-to-face mobilization played a decisive role in the victories of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2008 and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in 2010 … Unfortunately, vote mobs aren’t mobilizing new voters either. Watch a vote mob video, and you’ll see hundreds of politically engaged students putting their activism on display. Meanwhile, thousands of youth are missing from the camera frame – the students who are busy studying in the library, or the young people who don’t attend a college or university. Those are the unengaged youth of my generation. They didn’t take part in vote mobs, and they’re not likely to turn out on May 2.
By Andrew Potter - Friday, April 29, 2011 at 12:56 PM - 8 Comments
I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the Higher Education Strategy…
I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the Higher Education Strategy folks have released a new brief on the voting intentions of Canadian university students:
As Canadians head to the polls on Monday, survey data compiled during the past year by Higher Education Strategy Associates’ Canadian Education Project sheds light on the voting intentions and priorities of Canadian university students. According to a survey of 1,314 students conducted between April 21st and 27th, 2011, the New Democratic Party has edged ahead of the Liberals as the most popular party among students, with 27% and 25% planning to vote for each (respectively). Sixteen percent of students plan to vote Conservative, and 10% plan to vote green. More than one in five remain undecided with the election just days away.* Among the 1,314 respondents, 76% said they were very likely and another 10% said they were somewhat likely to vote
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 9:01 AM - 12 Comments
Elections Canada reports on the turnout at last weekend’s advance polls.
According to the preliminary figures, 2,056,001 electors voted at the advance polls in this federal general election. This is a 34.5% increase from the 1,528,780 electors who voted in advance in the 40th general election in 2008. Over 676,000 Canadians voted on Friday and over 823,000 on Monday, representing the two (2) busiest days of advance voting ever.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM - 23 Comments
Sarah Millar asks an important question: will vote mobs mean actual votes?
Small said part of the reason she doesn’t think the current online push will translate to more voters at the polls is because the Internet is fragmented — if you don’t want to see politics online, you won’t. “The relationship between technology and voter turnout is that there isn’t one.”
Jamie Biggar, co-founder of LeadNow an organization which is helping to facilitate the vote mobs, disagreed with Small, saying that social media is what is bringing in those who normally would not participate in politics. Through sites like Facebook and Twitter, they’re seeing their friends are involved, and they’re watching the videos, he said. “Vote mobs are a way to turn desire into action,” he said
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 15, 2011 at 1:35 PM - 36 Comments
Frances Woolley sets out to consider the efficiencies of vote-swapping and ends up considering the nature of our democracy.
The question is the wrong one to ask. If Party A wins three seats, then it can pursue policies that benefit people who do (or potentially might) vote for party A. If parties A, B and C win one seat each, they will pursue policies that benefit a different set of electors, not just those who vote for party A. But will a coalition government pursue policies that benefit a broader section of the electorate?
It’s not obvious. It all depends what happens at the coalition stage, when different parties are attempting to form governments. An interesting working paper by Amedeo Piolatto argues that, in certain circumstances, the power wielded by small parties in the coalition formation process can cause proportional representation systems to lead to political outcomes that are less representative of the interests of the broader population than first past the post type systems.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 15, 2011 at 10:41 AM - 144 Comments
The Conservative campaign has issued the following statement.
The Conservative Party encourages all Canadians to exercise their democratic right to vote. In fact, we are taking unprecedented steps to ensure that all Canadians are aware of the many ways in which they can vote, including voting by special ballot at or through returning offices.
Voting is a democratic right. A fair election process is an equally important democratic right. All Canadians want the election rules to be followed and to be enforced the same everywhere.
On April 13, representatives of the Marty Burke campaign attended at a polling station set up by the Returning Officer for Guelph.
The local campaign was denied the right to have its identified scrutineer observe the process – a denial of a basic electoral right. The local campaign also noticed that Liberal material was present in the polling area – a clear breach of the rules.