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Reasons for not voting in the federal election, October 21, 2019

Released: 2020-02-26

Voter turnout among youth holds steady for the October 21, 2019, federal election

Just over three-quarters (77%) of Canadians reported voting in the 2019 federal election, unchanged from the 2015 election.

In particular, following notable increases of more than 10 percentage points between the 2011 and 2015 elections, voter turnout among younger people aged 18 to 24, and 25 to 34, remained at similar levels in 2019.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Voter turnout increases in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario

Compared with the 2015 federal election, the proportion of Canadians who reported voting in 2019 increased in Saskatchewan (+4 percentage points), Alberta (+3 percentage points), and Ontario (+2 percentage points). These are more modest increases than those observed in most provinces between the 2011 and 2015 elections.

While Prince Edward Island had the highest proportion (82%) of people who reported voting in the 2019 election, voter turnout in the province decreased by 4 percentage points compared with 2015. Declines were also recorded in British Columbia (-3 percentage points) and Quebec (-2 percentage points). There was little change in the remaining provinces.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

"Not interested in politics" remains top reason for not voting

Among the 23% of eligible Canadians who did not vote, the top reason for not voting in the federal election was "not interested in politics," cited by 35% of non-voters in 2019. This was the most common reason for all age groups, with the exception of those aged 75 and older, who were most likely to indicate that they did not vote due to an illness or disability (49%).

Non-voters who were Canadian citizens by birth were more likely to report a lack of interest in politics as the reason for not casting a ballot (37%), compared with citizens by naturalization—both those who had been in Canada for 10 years or less (26%) and those who immigrated more than 10 years earlier (also 26%).

One in five non-voters report being too busy

Collectively, everyday life reasons were cited by nearly half of all non-voters (46%); these include being too busy (22%), having an illness or disability (13%), or being out of town (11%).

Everyday life issues were the most common reasons cited by non-voters in British Columbia, while political issues (including not interested in politics) were most prevalent in Nova Scotia.

Women more likely to report illness or disability

Female non-voters (48%) were more likely than their male counterparts (44%) to cite one of the everyday life issues as the reason for not voting, most notably having an illness or disability (16% versus 10%). This is partly related to the fact that a higher proportion of women were in the older age groups compared with men. One in ten female non-voters was aged 75 or older.

In contrast, men (37%) were more likely to report not being interested in politics compared with women (32%).

Some electors not voting for reasons related to the electoral process

Among Canadians who did not vote in the 2019 federal election, 5% identified issues with the electoral process as the reason for not voting, including not being able to prove their identity or address, a lack of information about the voting process, or issues with the voter information card.

Non-voters aged 75 and older (9%) and aged 18 to 24 (8%) were most likely to report electoral process issues as the reason for not voting. However, the proportion of youth citing this reason declined by 3 percentage points compared with the 2015 election.





  Note to readers

Data for this study were derived from five questions added to the November 2019 Labour Force Survey (LFS), commissioned by Elections Canada, to determine the reasons Canadians did not vote in the October 21, 2019, federal election.

These questions were:

1. Are you a Canadian citizen?

2. Did you vote in the recent federal election?

3. Why did you not vote?

4. Did you go to a polling station and try to vote? (if the survey respondent answered "could not prove identity or address" to question 3)

5. In the past 12 months, did you use Elections Canada's online service to check, update or complete your voter registration?

The question 'Why did you not vote?' included 18 categories that were divided into four broad groups for this publication:

Everyday life or health reasons: too busy; out of town; illness or disability

Political reasons: lack of information about campaign issues and parties' positions; did not like candidates/parties/campaign; felt voting would not make a difference; did not know whom to vote for; not interested in politics.

Electoral process-related reasons: could not prove identity or address; not on voters list; transportation problem/polling station too far; lack of information about the voting process; lines were too long; issues with the voter information card.

All other reasons: forgot to vote; religious or other beliefs; weather conditions; other reasons.

Eligible voters as defined in this study exclude people aged 18 and older who were not Canadian citizens, including "permanent residents" (landed immigrants) who had not yet obtained Canadian citizenship and "non-permanent residents" (people from another country who lived in Canada and had a work or study permit, or who were claiming refugee status, as well as family members also living in Canada with them) at the time of the survey.

The LFS is a monthly survey of approximately 56,000 households. It excludes persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements, full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the institutionalized population, and households in extremely remote areas with very low population density.

Previous studies and post-election surveys have consistently shown that voter turnout rates reported in those studies are higher than official voter turnout rates. The estimate for the voter turnout rate in this special LFS study (77%) was approximately 10 percentage points higher than the official figure published by Elections Canada (65.95%) following the October 21, 2019, federal election. In a similar survey conducted following the 2015 federal election, the turnout rate from the survey was 77.0%, 8.7 percentage points higher than the official figure of 68.3% published by Elections Canada.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Martha Patterson (613-299-3942; martha.patterson@canada.ca), Centre for Labour Market Information.

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