POLITICS
02/23/2020 10:19 EST

Nearly 1 In 3 Young Voters Say They’d Vote For Any Party: Report

Social issues are key to those 35 and under, a new survey suggests.

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Signs direct Canadian voters on election day at a polling station in Montreal on Oct. 21, 2019.

The youth vote and how political parties can best capture it is the subject of debate every time an election rolls around. 

A new report by the non-profit group Future Majority suggests young voters — those between 18 and 35 — have a few issues that will make or break whether a party will have their support. It also suggested that 27 per cent of youth voters would consider voting for any party.

The report found 82 per cent of young Canadians refuse to support a party that doesn’t commit to reducing the country’s carbon emissions. Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they’d consider voting for the Conservatives, but that failing to reduce carbon emissions would be a top deal-breaker issue for them.

The last federal election in 2019 was 18-year-old Reese Estwick’s first time voting. The University of Regina student said she didn’t believe politicians did enough to connect with young voters.

“I think the majority of politicians failed to address young people, as well as many issues that are important and affect young people on a daily basis. One example being the climate crisis,” she said. “I don’t think it was discussed as much as it should have been throughout this election.”

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Reese Estwick.

Social issues are very important to young voters, the survey suggests.

Other deal-breakers included reducing funding for the country’s health-care system (81 per cent), denying a woman’s right to choose (77 per cent), reducing funding for post-secondary education (77 per cent), banning religious symbols (72 per cent), and not supporting equal marriage rights (69 per cent).

Estwick, a political science major, said that her deal-breakers were related to her activism work.

“I think for me it’s social justice issues that play the biggest role. So like Indigenous rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, as well as the right to choose,” she told HuffPost Canada.

Maeve Sharkey, a 26-year-old regional director with Future Majority, also told HuffPost Canada her personal deal-breaker was politicians who support policy decisions solely based on religious creed.

“It’s sort of something that I value because I’m really interested in municipal politics back home. But also just across party lines, I want more information than just a religious value, there should be reasoning for a policy,” she said.

Politicians are starting to care more about young Canadians because millennials and Gen-Z are now making up the country’s largest voting block, Sharkey acknowledged.

“In our election campaign, we were able to … really make sure that politicians realized that young people were showing up for themselves and for the country so that they would have to talk about the issues that matter to us.”

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Maeve Sharkey.

Among young voters, the NDP was the most popular party with 88 per cent of those surveyed saying they would consider voting for them. They were followed by the Liberals at 87 per cent, the Green Party at 79 per cent and the Conservatives at 47 per cent.

Many of those surveyed expressed frustration with recent changes to Ontario’s student loans program under Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government as part of their responses.

Sharkey said politicians need to do more to address the concerns of young people and fully engage with them.

“I feel really listening to young people and meeting them where they’re at is where I think all young people want politicians to be,” she said.

“They want to be having those conversations. So whether it be going to the campuses and having debates or having events [and] also making sure that their offices are accessible for when young people want to meet with them.”

Estwick agreed, noting that politicians need to make time to visit post-secondary campuses, and even high schools to engage with younger Canadians.

“Politicians need to find ways that they can engage young people in day-to-day conversations, as well as in events and all of those other things that really define what a party is doing for their communities.”

Future Majority, a non-partisan organization, defines itself as a group of young Canadians that aims to “address the growing disconnect young Canadians feel from the country’s current politics and politicians.” In its report, the organization surveyed more than 1,000 youth voters from ridings that have historically been decided by close vote margins, including Kitchener-Conestoga, Regina Wascana and Saskatoon West.

Estwick said she believes young people aren’t as valued to political candidates as the older generation because people don’t think they’re knowledgeable about the issues affecting the country.

“We’re very much disregarded in political conversations. And politicians don’t understand that we really do have a very large majority of the power.”

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