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Survey of Electors – Whitby–Oshawa / Yellowhead By-elections

Section 2: Voting in by-elections

This section of the report provides information on voter participation rates at both the locations where by-elections were held and also aims to deliver insights on motivations driving voting behaviour. The survey classified respondents into voters and non-voters based on the information provided and asked them reasons for their respective behaviour. Most respondents who voted indicated they felt it was their duty to vote in the by-elections while most non-voters indicated work as the prime reason for not being able to vote.

The choice of voting method and time is discussed for those who took part in these by-elections. Majority of voters started from home and voted at the polling stations on the election day. For non-voters, the section highlights the potential motivators to vote in future elections.

2.1 Voting participation

About six in ten (59%) electors indicated taking part in the by-elections held on November 17, 2014. The voter participation was significantly higher in Whitby–Oshawa (71%) as compared to the participation rates reported in Yellowhead (47%).

  • Age was definitely a significant factor influencing voting behaviour with about 70% of older residents taking part in voting compared to only less than half of young residents. This also relates to the observation that the participation rate was significantly higher among stay at home/retired residents.
  • Among those residents who noticed the advertisement about by-elections from Elections Canada, slightly more than seven in ten (72%) participated in the by-elections which is significantly higher than the participation rate among those who did not notice the advertisement from Elections Canada (50%).

2.1 Voter Participation
Text version of "2.1 Voter Participation"

2.2 Reasons to vote

Among those who voted in the by-elections, two in five (39%) felt that it was their duty to vote. Some of the other commonly cited reasons for voting include: Habit–always vote (17%) and it is important to participate in political process (11%). The motivations for taking part in the by-elections were fairly similar in both regions with no significant differences. Some key observations about demographic sub-groups were:

  • Consistent with previous knowledge on voting behaviour, older residents (55+) were more likely to be motivated to vote due to political motivations (support a particular party/candidate).
  • The proportion of households with annual income of less than $40,000 who mentioned that it was their duty to vote was significantly lower than other income groups.

2.2 Reasons to Vote
Text version of "2.2 Reasons to Vote"

Both ridings were pretty similar in terms of reasons why electors voted in the by-elections.

Table 2.1 Reasons to vote
Reasons to vote Total Whitby–Oshawa Yellowhead
Feel it is a duty to vote 39% 39% 38%
Habitalways vote 17% 17% 18%
Important to participate in the political process 11% 11% 12%
To support a particular party 7% 7% 6%
To support a particular candidate 6% 6% 5%
Because I can/have the right/privilege 5% 5% 5%
Wanted a say/have my voice heard/make my vote count 3% 3% 3%
To bring about a change 2% 3% 1%
To oppose a particular party 2% 2% 2%
Other 2% 2% 3%
Don't know/Refusal 1% 1% 2%

2.3 Reasons to not vote

Some of the top reasons for not voting were neither related to the electoral process nor the political parties/candidates taking part in the by-elections. The most cited reason for not taking part in the by-elections was work (cited by 17% of non-voters). Some of the other reasons included travelling (16%) and being too busy (14%).

  • The proportion of non-voters who cited being too busy in Whitby–Oshawa (19%) was significantly higher than among those in Yellowhead (12%) whereas "forgot to vote/about the election" was more commonly cited in Yellowhead (8%) as compared to Whitby–Oshawa (4%).
  • As expected, a significantly higher proportion of younger (18-24) and middle aged (35-54) non-voters said work or being too busy as reasons for not voting as compared to their older counterparts. However, the opposite is true for electors not voting because of the candidates taking part in the by-elections.
  • Lack of information (13%), health/injury (8%) and family obligations (8%) are more common reasons among women than men while students are more likely to not vote because they were too busy.

2.3 Reasons to not Vote
Text version of "2.3 Reasons to not Vote"

In both ridings, those who did not vote in the by-elections had similar reasons. However, non-voters in Whitby–Oshawa (19%) were significantly more likely to say they were busy as compared to non-voters in Yellowhead (12%).

Table 2.2 Reasons to NOT vote
Reasons to NOT vote Total Whitby–Oshawa Yellowhead
Work 17% 17% 16%
Travelling (out of town, abroad...) 16% 13% 18%
Too busy 14% 19% 12%
Lack of information e.g. campaign issues, parties' positions 10% 9% 10%
Lack of interest/Apathy 10% 9% 10%
I forgot to vote/forgot about the election 6% 4% 8%
Health/Injury/ Illness 6% 6% 6%
Family obligations 6% 7% 5%
Related to candidates 4% 6% 3%
Meaninglessness of vote 4% 3% 5%
Cynicism 2% 2% 3%
Lack of information on voting process e.g. when/where to vote 2% 2% 3%
Transportation issues 2% 1% 3%
Registration problems 2% 3% 1%
Problems with access to the polls 2% 1% 2%
Polling station too far away from home 2% 2% 1%
Related to politicians (in general) 2% 1% 2%
Other 5% 4% 5%
Don't know/Refused 2% 3% 1%

2.4 Potential motivators to vote in future

2.4.1	Potential Motivators for Voting
Text version of "2.4.1 Potential Motivators for Voting"

All non-voters were also asked what would encourage them to vote in future elections. The two key themes that emerged include making the voting process more convenient and quality of the candidates and parties contesting in an election. For instance – about 14% of non-voters indicated Internet/ phone/home voting as options that would encourage them to vote and another 10% of non-voters mentioned better/more honest candidates/leaders or political parties.

  • A significantly higher proportion of non-voters in Whitby–Oshawa indicated Internet/phone/home voting as something that would motivate them to vote in future elections.

Among those who did not vote in these by-elections, the proportion of respondents who would be encouraged to vote in the next federal election by Internet/phone/home voting was significantly higher in Whitby–Oshawa (21%) as compared to Yellowhead (11%). These results also reflect on the fact that significantly greater proportion of electors in Whitby–Oshawa indicated being busy as a reason for their non-participation in these by-elections.

Table 2.3 Potential motivators to vote in next federal election
Potential motivators




I usually/always vote/will vote next time 18% 18% 18%
Internet/phone/home voting 14% 21% 11%
Better/more honest candidates/leaders/parties/policies 10% 13% 9%
Better/clearer information on candidates/policies/platform 5% 4% 5%
Make voting easier/more accessible 4% 7% 3%
More/local campaigning/advertisement/publicity 4% 2% 6%
Depends on candidates/platforms/leaders 4% 4% 4%
Other 4% 3% 4%
Nothing/I would not/do not vote in elections/by-elections 5% 5% 5%
Don't know/Refused 29% 24% 33%

All those who did not vote in the by-elections for some reason were asked if they would have voted if it was possible to cast their vote on Elections Canada's website. Overall, close to six in ten non-voters said yes to this question; the response was more positive in Whitby–Oshawa (66%) compared to Yellowhead (55%).

  • Once again, the youngest age group and students were significantly more likely to have voted if an option was provided on Elections Canada website. This could be attributed to the higher level of comfort with technology and the online environment for this group.
  • Similarly, the favorability of this option appears to increase with level of education.

2.4.2	Vote Intent on Elections Canada's Website
Text version of "2.4.2 Vote Intent on Elections Canada's Website"

2.5 Voting methods and time, accessibility and SIGNAGE

This section delves into the popular polling options and times selected by the electors of Whitby–Oshawa and Yellowhead. It also highlights the accessibility features and effectiveness of signage both outside and inside the buildings to ensure it was easy to locate and access the polling station.

  • Overall, the majority (81%) of voters went to a polling station on November 17 to cast their vote. Another 16% visited an advance polling station between November 7 and November 10, 2014.
  • In terms of difference in the two ridings, a significantly higher proportion of voters in Yellowhead (85%) cast their vote on the election day as compared to 78% in Whitby–Oshawa.
  • Age seems to be a critical factor affecting the choice of voting method. A significantly higher proportion of older voters chose to vote at an advance polling station (20% for 55+ vs. 15% for 35-54 and 11% for 18-34).

2.5.1	Voting Method Used
Text version of "2.5.1 Voting Method Used"

When looking at voting on election day, time slots before 1:30 pm were more popular in Yellowhead (35% of voters) while Whitby–Oshawa voters preferred evening time (after 5:30 pm) for voting (40% of voters).Footnote 6

  • Early morning (11:30 am or earlier) or in the evening (after 5:30 pm) were the most popular times for voting with almost 52% of overall voters casting their vote in one of these time slots.
  • In addition, age seems to be affecting the time chosen for voting on election day. A significantly lower proportion of older (55+) voters casted their vote in the evening after 5:30 pm (19%) as compared to middle aged (44%) and young voters (40%).
  • One of the possible reasons for this behaviour could be the busy schedule of working individuals who are more likely to be under the age of 55 years.
  • It was also noted that most people with a disability chose to vote in the morning or early afternoon (52% voted before 1:30 pm) while those without disability chose to vote in late afternoon or evening (69% voted after 1:30 pm).

2.5.2	Most Frequent Voting Time
Text version of "2.5.2 Most Frequent Voting Time"

Nearly three quarters (72%) of voters went to the polling station from home while the second most commonly cited commute was from work (20%). None of the other locations mentioned were mentioned by more than 2% of voters.

  • It was interesting to note that the proportion of voters who started from home in Whitby–Oshawa (77%) was significantly higher than those in Yellowhead (62%) and the reverse was true for those starting from work in the two ridings.
  • Not surprisingly, a significantly higher young and middle aged voters left from work to go vote while the older voters were more likely to leave from home.

2.5.3	Starting Point to Polling Stations
Text version of "2.5.3 Starting Point to Polling Stations"

Virtually all voters (98%) found it easy to reach the polling station. Although there were minor regional differences, both ridings received very high scores (97% for Whitby–Oshawa and 99% for Yellowhead).

  • Among those few who had difficulties reaching the polling station, being unable to find the address was the most common reason (37%).

Similar to what was observed earlier, virtually all voters (99%) found the building to be accessible. The perception of voters across the two ridings was very similar on this aspect.

  • Male voters were significantly more likely to give the top most score on building accessibility than their female counterparts.

2.5.4	Accessibility of the Building
Text version of "2.5.4 Accessibility of the Building"

Those with a disability also found the buildings to be very accessible (87%). Comparing their experience with those without disability revealed that there were no significant differences as both groups found the buildings to be very accessible. Although the proportion of voters indicating that the building was very accessible was 6% lower than those without disability (87% vs 93%), the top two box (% very/somewhat accessible) proportions were even more closely aligned (97% vs 99%).

Table 2.4 Building accessibility
Building Accessibility Total Voters with disability
Voters with no disability
Very accessible 92% 87% 93%
Somewhat accessible 7% 10% 6%
Not very accessible 1% 1% 1%
Don't know/Refused 0% 1% 0%

The response to number of directional signs both outside and inside the building to help the voters find the polling station was very positive. Overall, 84% of voters said there were enough directional signs outside the building while 95% of voters said the same about directional signs inside the building.

  • Surprisingly, the proportion of students who found directional signs outside the building to be enough was significantly lower than all other employment groups (58% for students vs. 82% for stay at home/retired, 87% for working and 90% for unemployed/looking for a job) but their response about the number of directional signs inside the building was in line with other groups.

2.5.5	Directional Signs Outside the Building
Text version of "2.5.5 Directional Signs Outside the Building"

2.5.6	Directional Signs Inside the Building
Text version of "2.5.6 Directional Signs Inside the Building"

More than half (55%) of voters either did not see (31%) any signs indicating that the polling station had wheelchair access or were unsure and did not give an answer (24%).

  • The proportion of voters who did see such a sign was significantly higher in Yellowhead (56%) as compared to those in Whitby–Oshawa (38%).
  • Additionally, people who were born in Canada were more likely to see the wheelchair sign than those born outside of Canada (46% vs. 33%, respectively).

2.5.7	Visibility of Signage for Wheelchair
Text version of "2.5.7 Visibility of Signage for Wheelchair"

Among those who did indicate seeing the wheelchair signs, nearly three quarters (74%) said the signs were very visible. This proportion was pretty consistent across most demographic and behavioural categories.

Virtually no one required special assistance to cast their ballot with 99% of voters confirming this. Among those with a disability, only 8% of voters indicated the need of special assistance while 92% denied the same. Among those very few who required special assistance, half indicated they needed help from the polling staff.

Apart from asking about the required documents, voters were also asked if they brought their voter information card to the polling station. Overall, a majority (83%) of voters had brought their VIC to the polling station.

  • There were some regional differences noted with 88% of voters in Whitby–Oshawa indicating that they brought their VIC to the polling station while only 74% said the same in Yellowhead.
  • The middle aged voters were significantly less likely to bring their VIC to the polling station as compared to their younger or older counterparts.
  • Aboriginal respondents were also significantly less likely to bring their VIC. Only 38% brought it compared to 83% of non-Aboriginal voters.
  • Voters in the $40,000 to $60,000 income category were more likely than others to bring their VIC. Nine in ten respondents (91%) had their VIC with them while around eight in ten respondents within the lower (less than $40,000) and higher income ($100,000 and above) brackets had theirs (78% and 80%, respectively).

2.5.8	Bringing Voter Information Card
Text version of "2.5.8 Bringing Voter Information Card"

Footnote 6 Note that voting hours were from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm in Whitby–Oshawa and from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm in Yellowhead.