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Friday, October 13, 2006

Politics and the 18-35 Age Group

Canada West Foundation is about to release a report on the political attitudes of western Canadians 18-35 year olds. The report surveyed 2000 people across the west and is being released on Thursday October 19.

I have had a chance to read an advance copy and can tell you it dispels some myths about youth voting. It also confirms some issues and values preference differences between this group and the dominant over 35 age sector.

One eye-popping finding is that Under 35s also do not relate to political parties or election campaigns. What would it take to get them to participate? We know people do not vote on issues as much as their sense of identity. After all politicians in power do an awful lot in "our names" justifing actions in term of what they believe their constituents are telling them.

I wonder if the 18-35 people do show up and participate in the PC leadership which candidate resonates with them the most? Would it be Norris the Young? Oberg the Maverick? Morton the Academic Theo-con? Dinning the Destined? Hancock the Progressive? Stelmach's Integrity? McPherson's Courage? Doerksen the Nondescript?

Here are some report highlights provided by the Canada West Foundation with the advanced copy I am sure I can share:

Identity: Contrary to stereotype, under 35s are more likely to describe themselves as centrists than as left-leaning.

National Unity: Under 35s are quite confident that Canada will remain united in 20 years, but register high levels of indifference toward Quebec separation.

Attitudes Toward Canadian Democracy: Under 35s report a moderate level of interest in politics. The vast majority feels an obligation to vote, and many see volunteering in their community as an obligation.

Under 35 Public Policy: While many “mainstream” policy issues (such as health care) are important to under 35s, they are also concerned about a number of issues that receive relatively less attention, including poverty, post-secondary education, and international issues. There are a number of important policy priority differences between under 35s and over 35s, particularly with respect to international issues.

A healthy vibrant democracy depends on citizen participation. It is not good that this segment of our society does not relate their citizenship in terms of political parties and election campaigns.

Not their fault - parties have to be more open and relevant and elections have to be more meaningful and less market positioning of the candidates as a mediocre yet acceptable product. No inspiring leadership to be found there.