Written by Hilary Martin
In 2015, young voters in this country bucked the trend of low voter turnout among their age group and played a decisive role in the election. Four years later, voters under 35 are perhaps more politically engaged (look no further for evidence than the youth who rallied around the world last month in the global climate strike), but whether or not they will turn out in the same numbers they did in 2015 is uncertain. At this point, is any party’s offering connecting with them?
The federal election of 2015 was a “change” election, which usually brings more voters of every age to the polls, but there were a few other forces at work. In Justin Trudeau, young voters were presented with a relatively younger, more charismatic and relatable leader. The Liberals were also organized when it came to recruiting youth, particularly on university campuses. Over half (57%) of those under the age of 25 turned out (up from 39% in 2011) and the Liberals won a majority government.
An Abacus Data poll1 conducted a few months after the election reported the Liberal vote among the under 25 set at 45%, support for the NDP at 25%, the Conservatives at 20% and the Greens at 4% (it is important to remember that opinion polls and election results don’t always align perfectly – people like to say they voted for a winner, even if they did not). Recent public opinion polling shows that the Liberals continue to hold the largest share of votes among 18-24 and 25-34-year-olds, but most peg their support at around a third, and few if any show their support over 40%.
While no party has been able to take the lead from the Liberals among young voters, there are some opportunities for both the Greens and the NDP to shave off Liberal support. The NDP and Greens are the second choice of well over half of Liberal voters under 35. The Greens already appear stronger than in 2015 and Elizabeth May’s approval ratings among young voters are net positive. As for the NDP, their support is stronger among voters under 35 than among all other age groups, and opinion of Jagmeet Singh is largely favourable. Finally, voters under 35 are the most likely to claim they may switch their vote before election day.
What might sway young voters this election? Earnscliffe’s own data2 from earlier this year shows that environment and climate change is the top issue among voters 18-24 and 25-34. Almost one-in-five in both age categories name it as the most important issue facing Canada today, ahead of the economy and health care.
When it comes to the issues young voters say will affect their decision, health care is the issue the most voters 18-24 (58%) say will have a major impact on their vote. Climate change is not far behind – 50% say how the parties plan to tackle the issue will have a major impact on their vote. The economy (58%) and health care (55%) are the issues that are most likely to have a major impact on the choice of voters 25-34, but climate change is included in their top five (44%).
The economy and health care usually emerge among the top issues for voters, regardless of age. It’s reasonable to assume that younger voters are considering the economic policies of each party and might be interested in the health care announcements that have been made so far, such as solutions to make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible. However, those under 25 in particular will likely want to know more about each party’s plan to address climate change.
 The Abacus Data study referenced was conducted online with 1,000 Canadians aged 18 to 25 from February 8 to 15, 2016. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s most respected online sample providers. The study was commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
 Methodology: The results are based upon an online survey of 2,427 eligible Canadian voters randomly recruited from LegerWeb’s online panel and conducted between January 25th to February 5th, 2019. Using data from the 2016 Census, results were weighted according to age, gender and region in order to ensure sample reflective of the population. As this was a non-probability sample, no margin of error can be associated with the results, nor is it appropriate to offer any comparative margin of error indicating the level of accuracy of results had the study been conducted using random probability sampling.