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What you should know about this study

The 2003 General Social Survey (GSS) on social engagement surveyed about 25,000 Canadians aged 15 and older living in private households in the 10 provinces. It was developed to explore the measurement of social capital and develop a better understanding of how social networks and norms of trust and reciprocity contribute to individual and social outcomes. For this purpose, the survey collected information on a wide range of activities, such as social contacts with family, friends and neighbours; involvement in organizations, political activities and volunteer work; and the informal care they provide or receive. It also explored the values and attitudes and the level of trust in people and in public institutions. Overall, the survey provided comprehensive information on the many ways that Canadians engage in civic and social life.

The target population is based on a sample of just over 13,000 respondents and represents over 13.5 million non-retired Canadians aged 19 to 64.  The reasons for restricting the study population are:

a) those 19 and older, as people in this age group are most likely to be eligible to fully participate in the political process and to do so voluntarily;

b) those under the age of 65, as seniors have very different patterns of engagement due to a number of factors such as mobility restrictions and extended leisure time;

c) individuals who are employed, attending school or engaged in household work or caring for family members (that is, not retired from the workforce), as they are subject to more time constraints than retired persons.

Political participation/participation in the political arena: The four forms of political participation considered in this study are searching for political information, volunteering for a political party, belonging to a political party, and writing to a newspaper or contacting a politician to express your views. An individual had to report engaging in at least one of these activities to be classified as participating in the political arena.

Forms of participation where the explicitly political nature of the activity could not be determined are not included.  These excluded activities are boycotting products or services (which may be done for ethical as well as political reasons) and participating in a march or demonstration. For instance, an individual who took part in a walk to raise funds for breast cancer may have reported that they had participated in a march or demonstration.

Voting is considered by many to be the benchmark measure for political participation and civic engagement. However, since elections are only held periodically, measures that look at more constant forms of political behaviour are often chosen instead. In addition, eligibility to vote could not be determined using the GSS, thereby limiting the usefulness of the voting measure.

Of course, there are many forms of political participation that citizens may engage in that are outside the realm of the questions asked in the General Social Survey. These forms of participation are no less important 

Multivariate analysis
The statistical analysis uses odds ratios to identify various characteristics associated with the likelihood of participating in the political arena. The results indicate whether there is a statistically significant relationship between the various characteristics included in the model, while holding the effects of the other variables constant.  

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Date modified: 2008-11-21 Important Notices