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Survey of Candidates Following the 40th General Election

Summary

As part of the evaluation of the 2004 general election, Elections Canada developed and conducted a nationwide survey of electors in the weeks following the election. This report offers an overview of the methodology used and the results.

The results are presented in four major categories: informing electors, advertising campaign, voter turnout and voter attitudes.

The voter information card proved to be an effective tool: 55% of the respondents named it as their main source of information on voting procedures. Close to 85% of respondents (the percentage was slightly lower in the case of young electors and Aboriginal electors) said that they received their information card and roughly 95% of those respondents did not report any errors.

Of the respondents who did not receive their information card or whose card had errors, 42% said that they took steps to correct the situation, mainly by calling the Elections Canada toll-free number or by going to the polling station on election day. A higher proportion of young electors took the initiative to deal with their registration and more often did so at the polling station on election day. Aboriginal respondents were less inclined to take such steps.

The advertising campaign seems to have made a strong impression and the reactions were generally very positive. Close to one respondent in two (49%) said that they recalled seeing or hearing a non-partisan advertisement encouraging people to vote, and 56% recalled hearing the slogan "Why not speak up when everyone is listening?" Advertisements that ran nationally received positive reactions in 61% of cases. As for the campaign specifically targeting Aboriginal electors, 24% of them said that they saw or heard one of the advertisements, and 54% of those respondents said that they had a positive reaction.

The vast majority of electors who said that they voted described their voting experience as easy and satisfactory. The results confirm that lower proportions of youth and Aboriginal electors vote. These two groups found the voting methods slightly less easy and were slightly less satisfied with their voting experience.

With regard to the distance to be travelled to the polling station, the clarity of the information received on site and the language spoken at the polling station, satisfaction levels ranged from 90% to 96%. Levels were slightly lower among young electors (particularly concerning

the distance to the polling station) and Aboriginal electors (most notably, concerning the clarity of the information received).

Respondents who did not vote gave as their main reasons lack of interest, unappealing candidates and lack of free time because of work or family demands. The profile is similar in every age group.

The majority of respondents thought that voting is a civic duty, that every vote matters and that the political issues of the day can be understood by most citizens. Half the respondents said that they followed the campaign with some interest, and 25% found that none of the parties addressed the issues that were really important to them. Compared to older electors, youth were more inclined to say the campaign issues were important to them personally. Higher levels of cynicism were observed among Aboriginal electors, particularly First Nations respondents living on reserve. Overall, however, the data confirm the usefulness of the information and education campaigns targeting youth and Aboriginal electors.

Introduction

As part of the evaluation of the 38th general election, Elections Canada conducted a nationwide survey of electors to determine the opinions, attitudes and knowledge of the general public concerning its services and various other aspects of the election process. Elections Canada also sought to evaluate certain aspects of electors' personal experience of registering and voting. EKOS Research Associates was mandated to develop the methodology and conduct telephone interviews under the leadership of its senior vice- president, Susan Galley. This report offers an overview of the results.

In recent years, Elections Canada has made special efforts to reach certain segments of the electorate known for their low turnout in federal elections. Initiatives have mainly targeted youth and Aboriginal electors. Nationwide surveys offer an excellent opportunity to identify the trends unique to certain groups. To obtain a large enough number of young electors and Aboriginal electors, the two groups were oversampled; that is, their proportion in the sample exceeds their actual proportion in Canada's population. The oversample of Aboriginal electors included Métis, Inuit and First Nations electors living on and off reserve, in both urban and rural environments.

Methodology

Between June 29 and July 12, 2004, on behalf of Elections Canada, EKOS Research Associates conducted 2,822 telephone interviews of Canadian electors (Canadian citizens aged 18 and over). The margin of error for this sample is ±1.9%, 19 times out of 20.Footnote 1 Table 1 presents a socio-demographic breakdown of the sample.

An oversample of 200 electors aged 18 to 24 was added to the 211 obtained at random, for a total of 411 young electors.Footnote 2 The margin of error for this group is ±5.0%. A total of 630 Aboriginal electors were surveyed (30 plus an oversample of 600), with a margin of error of ±4.0%. Aboriginal respondents were grouped in the categories of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Separate subcategories grouped First Nations respondents living on and off reserve.

Table 1: Elections Canada survey sample – socio-demographic data
Socio-demographic variables nFootnote 3 % Margin of error (%)
Gender Men 1,373 49 ±2.7
Women 1,449 51 ±2.6
Age group 25–34 482 18 ±4.6
35–44 580 21 ±4.2
45–54 491 18 ±4.5
55–64 317 12 ±5.6
65 and over 424 16 ±4.9
First language English 1,848 66 ±2.3
French 656 23 ±3.9
Other 309 11 ±5.7
Country of birth Canada 2,441 87 ±2.0
Other 363 13 ±5.2
Date immigrated to Canada Before 1970 204 60 ±7.0
1970 or later 138 40 ±8.5
Education level Elementary/High school/None 1,043 37 ±3.1
Technical/College/CEGEP 746 27 ±3.7
University 1,004 36 ±3.2
Household income Less than $20,000 351 15 ±5.3
$20,000–$39,999 602 25 ±4.1
$40,000–$59,999 552 23 ±4.3
$60,000–$89,999 478 20 ±4.6
$90,000 and over 383 17 ±5.1
Rural/urban indicator Rural 593 21 ±4.1
Urban 2,202 79 ±2.1
AboriginalFootnote 4 First Nations living on reserve 273 43 ±6.1
First Nations living off reserve 191 30 ±7.2
Inuit, Métis 166 26 ±7.8
Total Aboriginal respondents 630 100.0 ±4.0
Total sample 2,822 100.0 ±1.9

Further, quotas were used to ensure that each province/territory was adequately represented. As Table 2 shows, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia were grouped together, as were the three territories. With the necessary combinations, the regional distribution provides margins of error smaller than ±6.9%.

Table 2: Elections Canada survey sample – breakdown by region
Geographic representation n % Margin of error (%)
British Columbia 391 14 ±5.1
Prairies and territories 496 18 ±4.5
Alberta 276 10 ±6.0
Saskatchewan 90 3 ±10.5
Manitoba 107 4 ±9.7
Territories 22 1 ±21.3
Ontario 1,063 38 ±3.1
Quebec 660 23 ±3.9
Atlantic provinces 213 8 ±6.9
New Brunswick 68 2 ±12.2
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island 97 3 ±10.2
Newfoundland and Labrador 48 2 ±14.4
Canada 2,822 100 ±1.9

Data are weighted by age, gender and province of residence (2001 census data).

Presentation of results

The following section of the report presents key observations on the overall sample and the oversamples of young electors and Aboriginal electors, as well as highlights from the breakdown by gender, age group, first language, country of birth, date immigrated to Canada, education level and household income. The data are presented in four categories: informing electors, advertising campaign, voter turnout and voter attitudes.

1.2 Informing electors

Under section 18 of the Canada Elections Act, the Chief Electoral Officer implements public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public. The aim is to ensure that electors are informed of their right to vote and how to do so. During an election period, Elections Canada mounts a nationwide advertising campaign using various media, including Canadian television, radio and daily newspapers. One component of the campaign specifically targeting Aboriginal electors places advertisements in Aboriginal newspapers, messages on Aboriginal radio stations (in both official languages and Inuktitut), and advertisements on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and CBC North. The Elections Canada Web site (www.elections.ca) and 1-800 number (with its new Voice Response System in 2004) are other widely accessible information sources.

Some important information is provided directly to electors on the voter information card. Under the Canada Elections Act, no later than the 24th day before election day, each returning officer sends voter information cards personally addressed to all electors recorded on the preliminary lists of electors to inform them of the voting hours and their assigned polling station. In 2004, for the first time in a general election, one week after the personalized information cards were sent out, Elections Canada distributed a generic (non- personalized) reminder card to every household served by Canada Post. This card described the steps to be taken by an elector who had not received a personalized information card or whose card included inaccurate information.

Sources of information on voting procedures

Of all the available sources of information on voting procedures, nearly 55% of the respondents identified the voter information card as the most important (see Figure 1); this was followed, in order of importance, by television, newspapers, Elections Canada and social networks (friends and relatives). Nearly 5% of respondents said that they did not consult any particular information source.

The wide distribution of the voter information card and the fact it contained all the information needed for voting may explain, at least partly, why it was given such a great importance. The voter information card was most commonly mentioned by respondents regardless of their socio-demographic profile. However, it was identified as the main information source by lower proportions of young electors (33%) and members of First Nations living on reserve (34%), probably because fewer received a card among these groups (see the following section on the voter information card).

Figure 1: Sources of information about voting procedures

Sources of information about voting procedures

Some 17% of young electors said they got information about voting procedures from friends and relatives, and 5% mentioned the Internet; in both cases the proportion was higher than among older electors. Friends and relatives were a leading information source for First Nations electors living on reserve, mentioned by 7% of these respondents; 4% mentioned the office of their band council.

In geographic terms, the voter information card was identified as the main information source by lower proportions of francophones across the country (45%) and Quebec residents (46%). In contrast, it was named by a higher proportion of Ontario residents (60%).

In the overall national sample, respondents with a higher education level and household income were more likely to say they got information from the voter information card and less likely to name television.

Voter information card

A little more than 84% of all respondents said that they received an information card addressed to them personally, while 15% said they did not receive one at all. Of young respondents, 65% recalled receiving a card addressed to them; the proportion was 64% among Aboriginal electors and slightly lower (61%) among First Nations respondents living on reserve.

Figure 2: Voter information card

Voter information card

Respondents with a higher education level and household income were proportionately more likely to recall receiving a voter information card, as were francophone respondents from across the country and respondents living in Quebec.

Of respondents who said that they received an information card, 4% indicated that although it was addressed to them personally, it contained inaccurate information. Nearly 10% said they received a card addressed to someone who had moved or did not live in their household, and under 2% received only one card that was addressed to someone else. The proportion of those who received a card addressed to someone else was higher among Aboriginal electors (15%), particularly First Nations respondents living off reserve (19%).

Registration and corrections

Of the respondents who said they did not receive a voter information card (15%) or received one with errors (4%), some 42% took steps to correct the situation. The proportion of those taking such steps was higher among respondents below age 35 (46%); it was lower among respondents aged 35 to 44 (36%) and those aged 65 and over (39%).

Of the Aboriginal respondents, 23% had their name added to the list or had inaccurate information corrected. The proportion of those taking such steps was 18% in the case of First Nations respondents living on reserve.

Respondents with higher levels of education and household income were less likely to initiate such measures. Quebec was the region in which the proportion of residents doing so was lowest (33%).

Of the respondents who took steps to have changes made or to register, 18% said that they did so at the polling station on election day. The proportion was 26% among young electors and 27% among respondents born outside Canada. Further, 20% of anglophone respondents waited until election day, compared with 12% of francophone respondents. The proportion was significantly lower for respondents from Quebec (7%) and for Aboriginal respondents from First Nations (less than 9%).

Still among respondents who took steps to register, 13% chose to contact Elections Canada by telephone. In 6% of the cases (but under 2% of cases involving young electors), respondents dialed the number on their voter information card.

Figure 3: Steps for registering or having inaccurate information corrected

Steps for registering or having inaccurate information corrected

Whatever the steps taken, 74% of the respondents described them as relatively easy (23%) or very easy (51%). The findings indicate, however, that respondents considered procedures at the polling station on election day to be easier (mentioned by 87%) than calling the Elections Canada 1-800 number (69%) or the number on the information card (67%).

Respondents with a first language other than English or French seemed to encounter greater difficulty in taking steps to register or have inaccurate information corrected. Surprisingly, so apparently did university graduates.

In geographic terms, British Columbia respondents faced more difficulty in such attempts than respondents from other regions. In Quebec, a significantly higher proportion of respondents described the level of difficulty as average (neither difficult nor easy).

Generic reminder card

One week after sending the personalized voter information cards, Elections Canada sent a generic reminder card to all addresses served by Canada Post. This explained how to contact Elections Canada in order to register or have corrections made to a registration. It also reminded electors of the dates of advance voting and election day, as well as the various ways to vote.

In contrast to the personalized information card, fewer than half the respondents (46%) recalled receiving a reminder card. The proportion was even lower among Aboriginal respondents (38%) and young electors aged 18 to 24 (28%). It was higher among women (49%) than men (42%). In geographic terms, the proportion of respondents who recalled receiving the card was higher among residents of Quebec (52%) and lower among British Columbia residents (41%).

Among all the respondents who recalled receiving a reminder card, 55% said that they had found it useful (58% of women, compared with 51% of men). The reminder card seems to have been more useful to respondents with a first language other than English or French (63%) and to residents of the Atlantic provinces (67%).

Seeking additional information

Overall, 8% of respondents said that they actively sought additional information from Elections Canada during the election campaign. The proportion was slightly higher among young respondents and Aboriginal respondents (11% in both cases) and respondents with a first language other than English or French (12%). In geographic terms, residents of British Columbia, the Prairies and the territories were more likely to seek additional information than were residents of Ontario, the Atlantic provinces or Quebec.

The three main types of information sought had to do respectively with political parties (sought by 24% of respondents), where to vote (23%) and candidates (11%). The most common method for getting additional information was consulting the Elections Canada Web site, used in just over half the cases (51%). The proportion of respondents using this method was higher among young electors (66%) and decreased substantially with age, reaching zero among those aged 65 and over. The proportion of respondents who used the Elections Canada Web site was also lower among Aboriginal electors (22%) and particularly among First Nations respondents living on reserve (12%). Further, respondents with higher household income and education level were more likely to consult the Elections Canada Web site.

Information and registration in brief
  • The voter information card proved to be the most effective tool for providing information about voting procedures.
  • Nearly 85% of respondents said they received their information card (slightly less among young and Aboriginal electors).
  • Of respondents who received a voter information card, 95% did not report any error in their personal information (slightly less among young and Aboriginal electors).
  • Among the respondents who did not receive an information card or whose card contained errors, 42% said they took steps to correct the situation – mainly by going to the polling station on election day or by calling the Elections Canada toll-free number.
  • The proportion of those who said they took steps was slightly higher among young electors than among respondents in general. The proportion was lowest among Aboriginal respondents.
  • Registration procedures were considered easier at the polling station than by telephone.
  • First Nations respondents living on reserve reported having greater difficulty with registration procedures.

1.3 Advertising campaign

Close to half the respondents (49%) said that they saw or heard a non-partisan election advertisement encouraging people to vote. The proportion did not vary significantly from one age group to another, except for those aged 65 and over: 40% of respondents in this group recalled seeing or hearing such an ad. Aboriginal respondents also posted lower recall rates (averaging 42%), especially First Nations respondents living off reserve (37%). Further, the likelihood of recalling an ad encouraging people to vote increased with education level and household income. Geographically, the proportion of those recalling such an ad was highest in Ontario (57%) and lowest in Quebec (41%).

The respondents who recalled seeing or hearing a non-partisan ad were asked if they remembered what the main message was. Slightly under half (47%) recalled a general encouragement to vote. However, nearly one respondent in five (18%) did not recall the message, and this proportion was higher among Aboriginal electors (38%), especially First Nations respondents living on reserve (48%).

When asked whether they could identify the sponsor of the ad, 23% of the respondents correctly identified Elections Canada, while 34% named a sponsor other than Elections Canada (a political party, the government, etc.). Only 18% of young respondents, 11% of First Nations respondents living off reserve and 6% of those living on reserve correctly identified Elections Canada as the sponsor. The proportion naming Elections Canada was higher among men than women, and higher as well among anglophone respondents than francophones or those with a first language other than English or French. The ability to name Elections Canada was positively related to education level and household income.

Ads encouraging electors to vote seem to have been well received by the public: 61% of respondents said that their reaction was somewhat positive (29%) or very positive (32%). A negative reaction was reported by slightly less than 10% of respondents overall, and particularly by 16% of Aboriginal electors and 20% of First Nations respondents living on reserve. The proportion of negative reactions was also higher among respondents with a first language other than English or French (19%) and respondents born outside Canada (19%).

The slogan "Why not speak up when everyone is listening?"

Without being reminded of the slogan used by Elections Canada in its ads, 17% of the respondents clearly recalled that this was "Why not speak up when everyone is listening?" The proportion of those recalling the slogan was slightly higher among university graduates (21%) and generally related to household income. In geographic terms, the slogan was more likely to be recalled by residents of Ontario (20%) and Quebec (18%) than residents of other regions (15% in the Atlantic provinces, and 11% in British Columbia, the Prairies and the territories).

Figure 4: Recall of the slogan "Why not speak up when everyone is listening?"

Recall of the slogan 'Why not speak up when everyone is listening?'

On hearing the campaign slogan, 56% of respondents overall remembered it while 43% still did not remember it. Hearing the slogan had greatest impact on young electors: 63% said they remembered it after they heard it. However, the proportion remembering the slogan after hearing it was lower among Aboriginal respondents in general (54%), and still lower among respondents with a first language other than English or French (50%) and those born outside Canada (45%).

There was no apparent correlation between remembering the slogan and remembering the sponsor of the ad. Respondents who remembered the slogan only after the interviewer reminded them of it were less likely to identify Elections Canada as the sponsor (18% of these respondents) and more likely to have no idea who sponsored the ad (62%), or to associate the slogan with a political party or another organization (20%). Some 63% of respondents overall were unable to associate the slogan with a sponsor; the proportion was higher among young electors (68%) and First Nations respondents (70% on reserve and 74% off reserve).

Specific messages about voting

In addition to a common slogan, all the advertisements in the 2004 advertising campaign included a secondary message about a specific stage in the election process. One of the messages announced the launch of the general election, another gave the date of the election, a third reminded electors of the dates for advance voting and a fourth dealt with the voter information card.

The rate of recall of specific messages was 82% for the ad announcing the date of the election, 62% for the message announcing the launch of the election, 60% for the message reminding electors of advance voting dates and 54% for the message about the voter information card. In every case, proportions were lower among younger electors and Aboriginal respondents overall. There seemed to be no clear correlation with education level or household income.

Figure 5: Recall of specific ad messages

Recall of specific ad messages
Impact of advertisements on likelihood of voting

When asked about the impact of Elections Canada ads on their decision to use their right to vote, 20% of the respondents said that they had a positive impact and 79% said they had no impact. According to the responses obtained, the Elections Canada ad campaign had a greater impact on young electors (30%), Aboriginal respondents (32%), respondents with a first language other than English or French (33%), and respondents born outside Canada who immigrated in 1970 or later (40%). Geographically, the ads seem to have had slightly greater impact on respondents from Ontario (22%) and less impact on respondents from the Atlantic provinces (16%) and Quebec (14%).

Ads for Aboriginal electors

The Elections Canada advertising campaign included a component specifically encouraging Aboriginal electors to use their right to vote. An ad was broadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and CBC North, messages were aired on around 40 local radio stations, and posters and information flyers were also available in English, French and Inuktitut, as well as 10 other Aboriginal languages. Specific questions about this campaign component were asked of the oversample of Aboriginal electors.

Close to one Aboriginal respondent in four (24%) recalled seeing or hearing an Elections Canada ad specifically encouraging Aboriginal electors to vote. The penetration rate was higher among First Nations respondents living on reserve (31%) than those living off reserve (20%), and reached the lowest point among Inuit and Métis respondents (17%).

Of the Aboriginal respondents who saw or heard such an Elections Canada ad, 38% said that they saw it on television, 26% said that they saw posters or printed material, and 16% said that they heard an ad on radio. Television seemed to have a broader reach among First Nations respondents living off reserve and Inuit and Métis respondents; printed material seemed to have greater visibility among First Nations respondents living on reserve.

Reactions to the ads were positive in the case of 54% of Aboriginal respondents. Reactions were more positive among First Nations respondents living off reserve (68%) than among those living on reserve (52%) or Inuit and Métis respondents (43%).

Advertising campaign in brief
  • The advertising campaign seems to have made a strong impression: one respondent in two recalled seeing or hearing a non-partisan ad encouraging people to vote.
  • Some 56% of respondents recalled hearing the slogan “Why not speak up when everyone is listening?” The slogan seems to have been better remembered by young electors.
  • A variety of information presented in each advertisement was remembered by proportions of respondents ranging from 63% to 83%. These proportions were lower among Aboriginal respondents and young electors.
  • Elections Canada's televised ads received positive reactions from 61% of respondents; 54% of Aboriginal respondents reacted positively to the ads targeting Aboriginal electors.

1.4 Voter turnout

In total, 83% of respondents said that they voted in the June 28, 2004, election. Obviously this figure does not match the official turnout rate of 60.9%. Experience shows that election surveys tend systematically to overestimate the turnout rate. This discrepancy may be explained partly by the phenomenon of social "desirability" (voting is generally viewed as socially valued behaviour) and partly by a natural sampling bias (people more likely to vote are also more likely to agree to respond to an election survey). From the standpoint of this

study and for purposes of analysis, voter turnout – even if it is self-declared – still helps to identify certain trends and disparities between different socio-demographic groups.footnote 5

The analysis shows that self-declared turnout rates varied substantially from one group to another. For example, the rate was lower among respondents with a first language other than English or French (79%), respondents with less than high school education (78%), respondents who immigrated to Canada in 1970 or later (76%), and respondents with a household income below $20,000 (71%). The self-declared turnout was 60% among Aboriginal respondents; the rate was significantly higher among First Nations respondents living off reserve than among other groups of Aboriginal respondents.

As Figure 6 shows, the breakdown by age group seems to confirm a strong correlation between age and voter turnout, a phenomenon often observed in the past and extensively documented. While 68% of young respondents said that they voted, self-declared turnout increased in a relatively stable manner from one age group to another, peaking at 94% among electors aged 55 and up. Self-declared turnout tended to increase according to education level and household income.

Figure 6: Voter turnout, by age

Voter turnout, by age
Voting methods

Of all the respondents who said they voted, 87% said they did so at a polling station on election day (the true proportion according to the official results was 90%), 11% at an advance poll (true proportion just over 8%), and 2% by special ballot (true proportion 1.6%).

Older respondents were most likely to have voted at advance polls, with proportions exceeding 17% for respondents aged 55 and up. The voting methods used did not vary significantly according to other socio-demographic factors.

Whatever the voting method used, most respondents described it as easy or very easy. In fact, 93% of all respondents said that procedures at the polling station on election day were very easy (84%) or easy (9%). Only 3% said they found the procedures difficult; the proportion was higher among Aboriginal electors, particularly First Nations respondents living on reserve (10%).

Reasons for not voting

The respondents who said they did not vote (see Figure 7) gave as their main reasons lack of interest (16% of respondents), the fact that they did not like any of the candidates (15%), and the fact that they were too busy at work (12%) or with their personal/family life (11%). The "other" category (12%) mostly covers reasons having to do with health or transportation.

For young electors aged 18 to 24, the reasons most often mentioned were, in order: lack of interest (20%), lack of time because of work (20%), lack of time because of family or personal obligations (14%), and not knowing for whom to vote (10%). For Aboriginal respondents, the reasons most often mentioned had to do with not knowing for whom to vote (17%), lack of interest (11%) and being away from the electoral district on election day (11%). It should be noted that 8% of Aboriginal respondents said they did not vote because they did not know where and when to vote.

Some socio-demographic factors seem to correlate with the reasons mentioned for not voting. For example, personal or family obligations were reported by women more often than men.

A significantly higher proportion of francophone respondents (24%) said that they were simply not interested, while a higher proportion of anglophones (19%) said that they did not like the choice of candidates. Respondents with a first language other than English or French were more likely to think that their vote did not matter or to say that they were away from their electoral district on election day.

Of respondents who said they were not interested in the election, the proportion was higher among those with high school education or lower. The proportion professing lack of interest fell with rising education levels.

Figure 7: Reasons for not voting

Reasons for not voting

Attitudes toward voting experience

Satisfaction with experience at the polling station

Respondents who said that they voted were asked about their level of satisfaction with the distance of the polling station from their home, as well as the language spoken and the clarity of the information given at the polling station (see Figure 8). For each of these aspects and in every group in the study, the reported satisfaction rates exceeded 90%.

However, while 3% of respondents overall said they were dissatisfied with the distance they had to travel to the polling station, this proportion was 8% among Aboriginal respondents and 10% among First Nations respondents living on reserve. Higher proportions of Quebec residents and respondents with household income under $20,000 also said they were dissatisfied with the distance they had to travel to the polling station.

Likewise, while fewer than 1% of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the language spoken at the polling station, this proportion was 6% among Aboriginal respondents overall. Respondents with a first language other than English or French were also slightly less satisfied.

Finally, 3% of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the clarity of the information given at the polling station. The proportion was slightly higher among respondents with household income under $20,000 (5%), youth (6%) and Aboriginal respondents (7%).

Figure 8: Measures of satisfaction (distance, language, information)

Measures of satisfaction (distance, language, information)
General attitudes

While circumstantial factors may influence voter turnout, there are also latent predispositions that are expressed in attitudes. These are among the factors that should be taken into account in voter turnout analysis. For the purposes of this survey, these attitudes were measured by asking respondents to describe on a scale of 1 to 5 how much they agreed with a series of statements (see Figure 9).

When asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement "My vote doesn't really matter," nearly three quarters of the respondents (74%) said they disagreed while 17% said they agreed. The tendency to agree with this statement was markedly higher among Aboriginal respondents overall (32% among First Nations respondents living on reserve, 25% among First Nations respondents living off reserve, and 21% among Métis and Inuit respondents). Respondents with a first language other than English or French and those born outside Canada (particularly those who immigrated before 1970) also were more likely to agree with this statement. Higher education level and household income decreased the tendency to agree with the statement.

The survey findings suggest that voting is still perceived as a civic duty by most respondents. In fact, 88% of respondents agreed with the statement "It is the duty of citizens to vote in elections." The proportion was significantly lower among young electors (80%) and First Nations respondents (77% in the case of those living off reserve and 71% in the case of those living on reserve). Men agreed with this statement slightly less than women did.

Concerning the statement "The major issues of the day are too complicated for most electors," a little more than half the respondents (53%) said they disagreed, while 23% agreed. Young electors did not differ significantly in their opinion from other age groups. However, significantly more anglophone respondents disagreed, while agreement was expressed by a greater proportion of First Nations respondents living on reserve, respondents born outside Canada, and residents of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Higher education level and household income decreased the tendency to think that the issues of the day were too complicated for most electors.

The survey also measured agreement with the statement "None of the political parties addressed the issues that are important to me." Some 45% of the respondents did not agree with this statement, while 26% agreed. Contrary to popular belief, according to these results young electors are not more likely to think that the campaign issues are less important to them. However, 37% of Aboriginal respondents agreed that the issues did not concern them (29% of Métis and Inuit electors as well as First Nations respondents living off reserve, and 38% of First Nations respondents living on reserve). In general, increased household income correlated with a lower sense of alienation.

Figure 9: Proportions in agreement with the statements on elections in general

Proportions in agreement with the statements on elections in general
Interest in the campaign and knowledge of election platforms

Slightly under half the respondents (46%) indicated that they followed the election campaign with some interest, while 27% said that they did not have much interest in it. Age seemed to be a determining factor. While 60% of the respondents aged 65 and over said that they followed the election closely, only 30% of young electors said that they did so. Among the Aboriginal respondents overall, 38% said that they followed the campaign; the proportion was 34% among Inuit and Métis electors and First Nations respondents living on reserve, and 39% among First Nations respondents living off reserve. However, the proportion of those who said that they followed the campaign very closely was lowest among young electors and Aboriginal respondents from First Nations living on reserve.

Education level and household income positively influenced the degree of interest in the campaign. A higher proportion of men (53%) indicated that they followed the campaign closely or very closely, compared to women (39%). Respondents born outside Canada were more likely to follow the campaign closely than respondents born in Canada overall. Francophone respondents across the country or respondents living in Quebec tended to follow the campaign less closely than anglophone respondents or those living outside Quebec.

Concerning knowledge of party policies and election platforms, 39% of respondents overall said that they were somewhat or very knowledgeable, while 11% admitted having no knowledge of them at all. A much higher proportion of men than women said they were knowledgeable. The level of knowledge was lower among youth (25%) and Aboriginal electors (27%), particularly First Nations respondents living on reserve (18%). Residents of Quebec and of rural areas in general said that they were less knowledgeable about policies and election platforms. The level of knowledge seemed to correlate with education level and household income.

Attitudes of Aboriginal electors

Aboriginal electors were asked questions about their attitudes toward election issues that affected them specifically. Their attitudes were measured by quantifying how much the respondents agreed with a series of statements, using a scale of 1 to 5.

Of the Aboriginal respondents, 67% agreed with the statement "Aboriginal people in Canada would be better off if more Aboriginal people were elected to Parliament." This proportion was 73% among First Nations respondents living on reserve, 67% among those living off reserve, and 58% among Inuit and Métis respondents.

Further, 54% of Aboriginal respondents said that they would be more likely to vote if there were more Aboriginal candidates in federal elections. The proportion was higher among First Nations respondents living on reserve (68%) than those living off reserve (51%), and was significantly lower among Inuit and Métis respondents (36%).

Some 61% of Aboriginal respondents said that they were in favour of the idea of reserving seats in Parliament for Aboriginal peoples. The proportion was 70% among First Nations respondents living on reserve, 63% among those living off reserve, and 45% among Inuit and Métis respondents.

One last series of questions was designed to gauge Aboriginal electors' sense of belonging to their family, their community, their province or territory, and Canada. In general, the sense of belonging to family was strongest, followed by the community, Canada, and last the province or territory. First Nations respondents living off reserve and Métis and Inuit respondents expressed a stronger sense of belonging to Canada in general than did First Nations respondents living on reserve.

Attitudes toward registering and voting on the Internet

Survey questions were used to gauge how receptive electors were to the possibility of using the Internet for registration (see Figure 10).

Almost half, or 48% of respondents, said they would be likely (14%) or very likely (34%) to use the Internet to check their voter information if it was possible to do so. Men were more in favour of this idea than women, and younger electors were more in favour than older ones. The proportion increased with household income and was higher among urban residents than respondents from rural areas.

When asked whether they would be likely to use the Internet to register or change their voter information, slightly over half, or 54%, indicated that they probably would do this if it was possible. Once again, the proportion fell with age and increased with education level and household income. The proportion was also higher among urban residents (58%) than respondents from rural areas (42%), and was lower among Aboriginal respondents (45%). The results should, however, be weighed against Internet accessibility, a factor not examined in this survey.

Figure 10: Registering and voting on the Internet

Registering and voting on the Internet

To track electors' developing interest in alternative forms of voting, the survey also measured attitudes toward on-line voting. A slim majority of respondents (52%) said that they were in favour of the idea of allowing on-line voting "to make it easier for more people to vote." The level of support was 64% among young electors and decreased linearly by age, standing at 41% among electors aged 55 to 65. Some 48% of respondents thought that the potential for fraud and mistakes is still too great to have Internet voting. This proportion was 55% among Aboriginal electors.

When asked whether they personally would be likely to vote on-line, nearly half of respondents (48%) said yes. Respondents with household income of $60,000 or higher seemed to be more in favour of the idea. Again, willingness to vote on-line was strongest among young electors (63%) and fell steadily by age, reaching its lowest level (24%) among electors aged 65 and over. Some groups seemed less inclined to vote on-line; they included women, francophone respondents, respondents with high school education or lower, residents of rural areas compared with urban residents, and residents of the Prairies and the territories and Quebec.

Turnout and attitudes in brief
  • The proportion of young electors who said that they voted was 15% lower than the average for all electors, to 26% below the proportion of electors aged 55 and over.
  • The proportion of Aboriginal electors who said that they voted was 23% below the average for all electors. Not voting was significantly more common among First Nations respondents living on reserve.
  • The vast majority of respondents thought that voting procedures were easy. Youth and Aboriginal electors found voting methods slightly less easy.
  • More than 90% of respondents who voted said that they were satisfied with the distance they had to travel to the polling station and with the information they received there; 96% said they were satisfied with the language spoken at the polling station.
  • Young electors were slightly less satisfied with the distance they had to travel to the polling station.
  • Aboriginal electors were slightly less satisfied with the clarity of the information received at the polling station.
  • The main reasons mentioned for not voting were lack of interest, not knowing for whom to vote, and lack of time. Very few respondents mentioned administrative problems.

Footnote 1 All the samples presented in this report are probabilistic. The margins of error are based on a confidence interval of 95% (19 times out of 20).

Footnote 2 In this study, the "young electors" group includes electors aged 18 to 24.

Footnote 3 The letter n represents the sample size.

Footnote 4 Except for the oversample of Aboriginal electors, the data presented are weighted based on the 2001 census data.

Footnote 5 In the absence of any way to verify the truthfulness of the responses provided, this approach assumes that the discrepancy between the real rate and the self-declared rate is stable from one group to another and thus independent of other variables affecting voter turnout.