Guest blog post by Caro Loutfi, Executive Director, Apathy is Boring
Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.
Many of us are aware that 18-24 year olds in Canada are voting at the lowest rates, when compared to other age groups, during federal elections. We also know that this trend of youth-disengagement from the electoral process has been happening, and deepening, since the 60s.
What we might be less aware of is that not voting is shown to be habit forming. This means that if a young Canadian does not vote in the first two elections they are eligible to vote in, the likelihood is that they will not start voting later on in life. No mortgage or tuition bill will change that habit.
By losing first time voters, we are losing generations of Canadian voters for years to come. If the current trends continue, we will arrive at a situation in which routinely less than half of the Canadian electorate is voting.
Without electoral participation from Canadian citizens, we are putting into question the legitimacy of our democracy, and moreover the policies that are created by our democratic institutions.
What can we do about it?
The research is clear that face-to-face interactions are the most effective way of breaking down barriers that young and first-time voters may have when attempting to participate in the democratic process. While social media has provided a form of community that most youth engage with, it does not have the same impact as face-to-face engagement.
Apathy is Boring organizes Street Teams across the country, which sees volunteers attend concerts and festivals to have conversations and spread non-partisan electoral resources in an informal manner. This initiative is paired with the Apathy is Boring website, which in collaboration with other non-partisan groups, has become the youth focused resource centre for non-partisan electoral information.
As an individual, or as a representative of an organization, you can encourage your friends, family, volunteers and colleagues to start having the conversations that matter about our country.
This approach is needed and valuable – however youth civic engagement efforts do not end after the federal election on October 19.
Building a stronger bridge between youth, their communities and their government is long-term goal and will take time, creativity and innovation. Most importantly, it requires listening to young people as we build a more resilient and promising future.
Regardless of the cause you are working towards, youth civic engagement will have an impact, and this upcoming election is an opportunity to ensure that youth opt in to the democratic process. There are 5.5 million millennials between 18-30, and we make up 20% of the electorate.
One hashtag: 5.5 million voices #5MMV
About Apathy is Boring
Apathy is Boring is a non-partisan charitable organization that uses art and technology to educate youth about democracy, with the aim of increasing youth voter turnout, increasing youth engagement in the democratic process, and building a sustainable dialogue between youth and decision makers.