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Study: Political participation and civic engagement of youth, 2013

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Released: 2015-10-07

In 2013, young Canadians were more likely than older Canadians to participate in a number of non-electoral political and civic activities, but were less likely to report that they intended to vote in the next federal election.

These findings are part of a new article released today, titled Political participation and civic engagement of youth, which is based on data from the 2013 General Social Survey.

Examples of non-electoral political activities include signing a petition, participating in marches and demonstrations, expressing an opinion on an Internet forum or a website, or wearing a badge, T-shirt or sign to support a cause.

In 2013, 26% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 35% of youth aged 20 to 24 had signed a petition in the previous 12 months, compared with 22% among those aged 65 to 74, and 14% among those aged 75 and over.

Furthermore, 7% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 10% of youth aged 20 to 24 took part in a demonstration or a march in 2013, compared with 2% of seniors aged 65 to 74.

Among the youth, university students were especially more likely to participate in non-electoral political activities.

Civic engagement higher among the youth

Younger individuals were more likely than older Canadians to be engaged in civic activities, although in different ways than older age groups.

Civic engagement is not necessarily political as it includes participation in formal or informal groups or associations, as well as volunteering.

For example, 74% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 64% of youth aged 20 to 24 were members of a group, organization or association in 2013, compared with 62% among those aged 65 to 74.

In addition, 45% of those aged 15 to 19 and 30% of youth aged 20 to 24 took part in group activities or meetings at least on a weekly basis, compared with 25% among those aged 65 to 74.

The most common forms of social engagement among the youth included participating in sports or recreational organizations, cultural, educational or hobby organizations; and school groups or neighbourhood, civic or community organizations.

Conversely, young people were less likely than older people to belong to a union or professional association, service club, religious-affiliated group or political organization.

Young Canadians are less likely to report that they intend to vote

Despite having a larger degree of involvement in the activities listed above, young Canadians were less likely than older Canadians to report in 2013 that they intended to vote in the next federal election.

In 2013, just under half of first-time voters under the age of 20 (47%) reported that they were "very likely" to vote in the next federal election, compared with 84% among those who were aged 65 to 74 that same year.

Younger Canadians also reported a lower interest in politics, and were less likely to intend to participate in the voting process when their level of interest was low.

For example, among young people aged 15 to 19 who were not very or not at all interested in politics (as of 2013) and will be eligible to vote in the next federal election, 25% said that they would very likely vote.

Conversely, among seniors aged 65 to 74 who reported that they were not very or not at all interested in politics, 63% said that they would very likely vote.

  Note to readers

This study uses data from the 2013 General Social Survey (GSS) on social identity. The target population was composed of persons aged 15 and over living in the Canadian provinces, except for those living full time in institutions. There were 27,695 respondents.

In the article, comparisons are made with earlier versions of the GSS survey. The survey collected information about the likelihood of voting in the next federal election as of 2013, as well as information about participation in non-electoral political and civic activities. It also collected information about the reasons given by citizens who did not vote in the previous federal election (in 2011), as well as some information on the main sources of information used among those who follow news and current affairs on a regular basis.


The article "Political participation and civic engagement of youth," which is part of Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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