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Study: Canadians and their non-voting political activity

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The Daily

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One in three Canadians aged 19 to 64 was involved in non-voting political activities in 2003, according to a new study published today.

The study, published today in the June 2007 online edition of Canadian Social Trends, uses data from the 2003 General Social Survey on social engagement to examine the characteristics of non-retired Canadians aged 19 to 64 who engage in certain types of political activity. Seniors and retired persons were excluded from the study because they face fewer time constraints than people who are employed, attending school, engaged in household work or caring for family members; for this reason, they have very different patterns of engagement than persons who are not retired from the labour force.

Searching for political information was the most common type of non-voting political activity, pursued by 27% of non-retired Canadian adults. As well, 13% wrote to a newspaper or a politician to express their views, and at least 1 in 20 volunteered for a political party and/or joined a political party.

University graduates were over three times more likely to participate in one of these activities than individuals with a high school education. Just over half of those with a university education had engaged in at least one of these activities in 2003, compared with just 18% of those with a high school education or less.

Adult men tend to be somewhat more active than women

Adult men tended to be somewhat more active than women. Age was also a factor, with those aged 19 to 25 the most likely to participate in non-voting political activities, followed by those aged 45 to 64.

Those who follow the news regularly were almost twice as likely to be engaged in non-voting political activities as those who do not regularly follow the news. However, the way Canadians get their news is important. Those who rely solely on television to follow current affairs are only half as likely to be politically engaged as those who include newspapers and/or the Internet among their news sources.

Parents play a role in developing an individual's political consciousness. Canadians who have one parent with a university degree were more likely to be politically involved than those whose parents had less education; that likelihood increased if both parents had degrees. As well, Canadians whose parents had a history of volunteerism were more likely to take part in non-voting political activities.

Other aspects of a person's youth can be significant. Almost half of Canadians who participated in student government or belonged to a youth group (like Scouts or 4-H clubs) also engaged in political activities as an adult.

As well, people who perceive themselves as having a high level of control over their life chances are more likely to be active than those who consider themselves less in control of their own future.

Marital status, income, place of birth, region of residence, and living in a rural or urban area were not significant influences on non-voting political behaviour, once other factors were taken into account, the study found.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.

The study "Canadians and their non-voting political activity" is now available in the June 2007 issue of Canadian Social Trends, Vol. 83 (11-008-XWE, free) from the Publications module of our website. A printed version (11-008-XPE, $24/$39) is also available.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (613-951-5979;, Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division.