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News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students

University of B.C. students will be deciding soon whether to vote. (Alexandra Phillips)

Youth voters hard to predict in federal election #43

Young voters offer their ideas and opinions on this year’s election.

By Tanner McGrath, Aman Sridhar, Alexandra Phillips, Hiren Mansukhani and Chukwudy , in Elections , on October 16, 2019

Young people turned out in droves during the last federal election.

But pundits and political scientists say it is hard to determine what might happen next week with that group.

In 2015, there was a spike in the number of youth voting with turnout having increased by nearly 15 per cent from past elections, up to 57 per cent of all voters 18-34. This year, Canadian voters between the ages of 18 and 38 will make up more than 37 per cent of the electorate, according to Abacus Data. It still doesn’t match the 80-per-cent turnout of 65- to 74-year-olds, but it was a big jump.

Political watchers say it is hard to predict what might happen this year. 

“Political campaigns have been heavily dominated by personal issues of personal laws, the blackface photo, and issues over [Conservative Leader Andrew] Scheer’s employment history and his citizenship,” said Paul Adams, associate professor at Carleton University’s journalism school. “And we know that one of the effects of that negative campaigning is it drives down enthusiasm and turnout.” 

Research conducted by Abacus commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations suggested that Liberals targeted youth in 2015. They used a number of tactics such as get-out-the vote campaigns and social-media strategies that contributed to the higher turnout. 

But the Liberals also had a fresh new leader as an enticement — something that experts say is not there this time. That would be Justin Trudeau, who in 2015 was the new and appealing leader of the Liberal Party.

“What’s missing in this election is something magnetic. Instead, it’s a kind of choice amongst not particularly palatable alternatives, one of whom is particularly disappointing. That’s Trudeau, ” said University of B..C political scientist Richard Johnston.

Voting-age young people at UBC offered a range of opinions about this year’s election, with many clues about why they might not be voting.

UBC students Anne-Marie Dahms, Frank Wang, Favour Omobhude, Jade Fraser, and Noah Charron.