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First-Time Electors – New Canadians

Research has demonstrated that some groups of electors, including new Canadians, tend to vote less than the general Canadian population does. To ensure that these electors can exercise their right to vote in federal elections, it is important to understand the barriers they may face. To do so, Elections Canada looks at results from post-election surveys it conducts, as well as research on participation and democratic engagement. We also have ongoing consultations and relationships with various stakeholder groups, including organizations representing new Canadians.

New Canadians are usually defined as those who immigrated to Canada in the past 10 years, as opposed to established immigrants, who have lived in Canada for 10 years or more. In 2016, new Canadians and established immigrants represented about 7% and 15% of the Canadian population, respectively (Statistics Canada). As with other first-time electors, becoming a citizen means gaining the right to vote in federal elections.

The Dominion Elections Act of 1920 had a clause stating that people disenfranchised by a province for reasons of race would also be excluded from the federal franchise. In 1948, Parliament deleted the reference to discrimination in the franchise on the basis of race (see A History of the Vote in Canada, Chapter 3). As new Canadians come from a variety of backgrounds, and from countries with different political and electoral systems, it is difficult to make broad statements about this group of electors.

Notes:

  • This section presents results from the 2019 post-election surveys (National Electors Study), which were refined to provide a better understanding of the barriers that some groups of electors may face when voting in federal elections. Unless otherwise specified, results come from the post-general election survey. This section also presents results from portions of the Labour Force Survey that Elections Canada commissioned.
  • The National Electors Study defines new Canadians as immigrants to Canada who became citizens after the 42nd general election and therefore were newly eligible to vote in the 43rd general election. As this precision was not made in previous post-general election surveys, 1 it is not possible to compare the 2019 results with those of previous elections.
  • Only statistically significant results are presented here.

Participating in federal elections

Immigrants tend to vote at a lower rate, compared with the general population. New Canadians show lower levels of interest in politics and are more likely not to have voted because they were too busy or because of reasons related to the electoral process.

  • While the gap in voter turnout has been narrowing since 2011, new Canadians continue to report voting at lower rates in 2019: 72%, compared with 75% for established immigrants and 78% for Canadian citizens by birth (Statistics Canada).
  • New Canadian electors who did not vote were less likely to be interested in politics: 27% were interested in politics, compared with 43% of other Canadians.
  • Among those who did not vote, new Canadians were more likely to say that it was because they were too busy (29%, compared with 20% of non-immigrants and 25% of established immigrants). They were also more likely to report reasons related to the electoral process (30%, compared with 12% of other Canadians).

Attitudes and interest toward democracy and politics

New Canadians tend to be satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada, but showed lower levels of interest in politics before the call of the 2019 election.

  • In 2019, new Canadians were more likely to say that they were satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada (86%) than other Canadians were (78%).
  • Before the call of the election, new Canadians were less likely to be very interested in politics (31%) than other Canadians were (35%). However, when asked the same question after the general election, there was no statistical difference between the two groups.

Knowledge of the electoral process

New Canadians tend to be more aware of the voting registration requirements and more familiar with Elections Canada, but less knowledgeable about voting methods.

  • In 2019, new Canadians (81%) were more likely to know that they needed to be registered, compared with other Canadians (73%), and to be very familiar with Elections Canada (24%), compared with other Canadians (18%).
  • However, new Canadians were less likely to mention a polling station on election day or advance polls as ways to vote in federal elections (81% and 57%, respectively), compared with other Canadians (91% and 72%).

Getting registered

Getting registered appears to be challenging for some new Canadians.

  • In 2019, new Canadian electors were less likely to say that they were registered to vote in the election (60%), compared with other Canadians (90%).
  • New Canadians were also less likely to recall receiving a voter information card (90%) than other Canadians were (94%).

Getting to the polling place

Accessing the polling place may pose challenges for some new Canadians.

  • In 2019, new Canadians were less likely to say that their polling place was in a very familiar location (65%), compared with other Canadians (73%).
  • New Canadians were less likely to report that travel to their voting location took 5 minutes or less (47%), compared with other Canadians (55%).
  • New Canadians (77%) were also less likely than other Canadians (83%) to say that the building was very suitable for an election.

Voting at the polling place

While new Canadians are generally satisfied with the services provided by Elections Canada at the polling place, voting seems to be less easy for some.

  • In 2019, new Canadians tended to be more satisfied with the services provided by Elections Canada (99%) than other Canadians were (97%).
  • However, new Canadians were less likely to say that it was very easy to vote (81%) than other Canadians were (85%).

Providing identification

New Canadians are less likely to report that proving their identification is very easy.

  • In 2019, the likelihood of finding it very easy to prove identity and address was lower among new Canadians (89%) than among other Canadians (94%). 

Trusting the electoral process

New Canadians do not generally show key differences from other Canadians when it comes to their level of trust and confidence in the electoral process, but they are more likely to find that the election was run fairly.

  • In 2019, new Canadians were more likely to say that the federal election was run fairly (93%) than other Canadians were (90%).

Did you know?

There is a difference between an elector and a voter. An elector is any Canadian citizen 18 years of age and over. A voter is a Canadian citizen who has voted.

View the National Electors Study A voter's journey: from home to the ballot box for a comparison of the experiences of the general population and groups that face barriers to participating in elections.

View Information for first-time voters New Canadians to learn about the programs and services designed to address the barriers to voting faced by new Canadians.

Go to Inspire Democracy to learn more about how Elections Canada and our network of stakeholder organizations are working together to address some of the barriers to getting involved with elections.

Footnotes

1 Previous post-general election surveys identified "foreign-born Canadians" as any respondent who was born outside of Canada.