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Millennials and our Politics

Back in December, we blogged about millennials’ vote preference, based on the results from our December omnibus study.  To refresh, if voters aged 18-29 had their say, the national vote distribution would look like this:

NDP – 26%
Conservative – 24%
Liberal – 23%
Green – 16%
BQ – 19% (Quebec only)
Other parties – 2%

But these numbers aren’t the whole story.  In addition to the ballot question, we presented respondents with a list of statements and, for each political party, asked them to check off any they felt were applicable. The graphic below displays all the statements we offered, and the highest scoring cell for each is highlighted in party colours (blue for Conservative, red for Liberal, orange for NDP)

While they edged out the ballot question by 2%, the NDP dominated the statement question, scoring highest in eight out of 16 areas.  More significantly, the categories the NDP scored high in were generally positive and policy related, such as “understands the problems facing Canada”, “stands for clear principles”, or “looks after the interests of people like me”.  Meanwhile, the Liberals and Conservatives scored highest in areas not specifically related to policy, like “will promise anything to win votes” or “out of touch with ordinary people”.

Instinctively, one may assume that young people tend to be more left-leaning, and therefore that the majority of millennials are in fact NDP supporters, and simply have good things to say about the party they have identified with.  However, our ballot numbers show only slight variance between levels of support for the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP, so a progressive-bias may not be the case.  Another possibility is that in their efforts to attract votes, the two dominant political parties in Canada have simply missed the mark when it comes to messaging, policy, and behaviour in the eyes of the millennial generation.

Politics as usual – the bickering, name-calling, and procedural games – is not resonating with Canadians born after 1981.  Millennials already participate least in formal politics with low voter turnout rates and political party activism.  The NDP and the Green Party appeal to our generation because, as data suggests, these parties represent something different.  They stand for clear principles which a large percentage of millennials agree with.  They don’t appear to say anything to win votes and their leadership teams appear willing to listen to us.

The question is whether our generation will show up to vote on Election Day.  Ask most political operatives and they will say, “nah, they don’t vote”.  In many ways, all evidence supports their argument.  But if something were to wake up millennials, big changes could be in the making.

Long-term, the numbers suggest that Canada may be moving left – that the future for Conservative politics is bleak.

Although the phrase made famous by Winston Churchill may not still hold true – “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains” – historic survey data on life cycle changes in voting preference is instructive.