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Amending voter apathy

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | News | January 23rd, 2006

Last-minute assignments, late night cram sessions and weekend benders are assumptions and stereotypes that come along with being a college student. But Statistics Canada recently threw the myth of student political disinterest out the window.

According the General Social Survey (GSS) poll, which asked 3,000 people age 22-29 about their political involvement during the year 2000, almost 60 per cent of Canadian youth are involved in alternative political behaviors other than voting.

In contrast, only 39 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 or over took part in non-traditional political behaviour, even though this age group is most likely to vote (89 per cent).

The study, entitled “Willing to participate: Political engagement of young adults,” defines alternative political behaviour as searching for political issues on the Internet, signing a petition, boycotting certain products, attending or speaking at a public meeting, expressing views by contacting a newspaper or politician and volunteering for a political candidate.

“Young adults are politically involved, but in a different manner than older Canadians. Specifically, adults in their twenties voted less than any other age group; however, their rate of participation in non-voting political activities was comparable to that of adults aged 30 to 64,” says the study.

The most common form of non-traditional political involvement was searching for information about political issues (32 per cent) and signing petitions (31 per cent), while only three per cent of adult youth volunteered for a political party.

The study also suggests that education may play a role in the political habits of Canadian youth.

“Some 32 per cent of young adults with less than a high school education engaged in at least one non-voting activity, compared with 69 per cent of those with a university degree,” the study said. (Statistics on those with a college education were unavailable).

But why are young adults not to interested in trudging out the polls on election day?

The GSS study found that unlike previous generations, today's youth might be tuning out the political process because of information overload or skepticism of politics ability to affect them directly.

“Government has reduced or limited its support for issues that interest young adults, such as postsecondary education, equality and human rights,” reports the study.

The 2004 federal election recorded the lowest voter turnout in the history of Canadian politics at just over 60 per cent.

Even with campaigns like Rush the Vote in full swing during the 2004 election, still only 25 per cent of 18 to 24-year olds voted. This year Rush the Vote didn't receive federal funding, which may result in even lower turnout for young voters.

Fanshawe did their part to dispel the political apathy stereotype by hosting an all candidates forum for the London-Fanshawe riding and housing a polling station in Falcon Residence hall on the day of the election.

Approximately 200 students registered to vote in the Federal election on January 12 when the FSU supplied revision agents. Those students who live in the London-Fanshawe riding and have not yet registered still have a chance to vote on January 23. Just bring photo identification along with a piece of mail with their London address (phone/gas, bill etc.) to the college polling station on January 23.
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