Thursday, May 13, 2010

Canada: the Youth Vote, Nationwide

Jack LaytonImage by Reza Vaziri via Flickr
With a new poll released every week, EKOS Canada is a great boon for people like me who love analysing opinion polls in excruciating detail. No one else in Canada approaches this frequency: not Angus Reid, not Environics, not Harris-Decima... and with a sample size of around 2000 per week, they've also got some of the best margins of error in the business.

Except... EKOS tends to offer the same core stats per week: not only the nationwide totals, but totals based on region, based on gender, age and education level. They do separate stats for five major cities, too. All well and good, except that when you're subdividing subdivisions, 2000 becomes a smaller number pretty quickly, and the margin of error gets thrown sky-high.

I'm intrigued by the youth vote, for several reasons: one, it might suggest future voting trends, and two, it shows what issues are and aren't important to younger people. "Youth", by the way, means 25 and less. Well, 18 to 25, rather. I think you can learn a lot by studying what the youth are thinking, but I'm not sure how much EKOS can help you there, really. From week to week, their youth stats veer to an extent that suggests young voters are so fickle as to have no solid opinions whatsoever. The poll of 8 April showed the youth in Manitoba and Saskatchewan registering precisely 0.0% support for the Conservatives, only to discover six days later that the same demographic now registered 56.6% support for the Tories.

Obviously this is a joke. But their sample sizes were, get ready for it, 5 and 9 people, respectively. Less even than a mere show-of-hands, this is a 'stat' that is entirely meaningless. For a few weeks now, I've been collecting the youth vote as listed in EKOS studies, hoping that the combined numbers across a handful of polls (9, in fact, going back to mid-March, a range during which EKOS's overall polls have shown a marked stability) can give us more convincing numbers. By now, the combined sample size is 1377 people, a respectable amount, and we have 92 prairie voices now - much better than five.

So what does it show? Well, when I talk about the 'youth vote', I refer to my collated super-poll based on the previous nine EKOS polls. But when I talk about the overall vote, I refer only to the most current EKOS poll, which has a sample size of 2226 people.

With that in mind, let's start with the nation-wide. EKOS tells us that, overall, we're stuck at this deadlock:
  • Conservatives: 33.6%
  • Liberals: 27.1%
  • NDP: 16.9%
  • Green: 10.6%
  • BQ: 9.3%
  • Other: 2.5%
But the under-25 vote looks something like this:
  • Liberals: 25.6% (↓ 1.5%)
  • Conservatives: 23.3% (↓ 10.3%)
  • Green: 20.7% (↑ 10.1%
  • NDP: 16.7% (↓ 0.2%)
  • BQ: 10.4% (↑ 1.1%)
  • Others: 3.2% (↑ 0.7%)
Thus, while the percentages logged by the Liberals, the NDP, and the BQ reflect the overall population to a ridiculous degree, the difference is crystal-clear when looking at the Conservatives and at Green. More than ten points in either direction: the youth support the Tories fully ten percentage points less than the nation overall, and they support Green fully ten points more. This means:
  • The CPC ranks first overall, but second (to the Liberals) among youth.
  • Green ranks fourth overall, but third (ahead of the NDP) among youth.
  • Youth support Green in numbers twice as high as the nation as a whole does.
  • While nationwide, CPC support is almost three times higher than Green, among youth the difference between the two parties lies within the margin of error.
I'm going to look region-by-region in another blog entry, but these trends exist in every corner of the country.

Perhaps the aphorism about young conservatives having no heart and old liberals having no brains is not really a quotation from Winstion Churchill. It doesn't matter: there is clearly a degree of truth to the underlying reality that conservatism as a whole is a conviction that appeals to older people more than younger people. While the youth still rank the LPC at number one, do note that it is with a lower percentage than the country as a whole. Meanwhile, the three progressive parties capture fully 47.8% of the youth vote: just shy of half. Clearly the left of the political spectrum is where you'll find a good number of under-twenty-fives.

However, and I think this is a huge caveat, any claims that the New Democratic Party may like to think it has to represent young Canadians are apparently quite hollow. Though it's a marginal difference, the NDP actually poll in lower numbers among under-25s than among the country as a whole - a reversal of what one might expect, and a worrying trend for a party that always hopes to grab the imagination of new voters and future voters. Last year, Jack Layton talked about removing the 'new' from the party's name, among other reasons in order to reiterate the fact that the party was hardly some flash-in-the-plan but was indeed a well-established, reliable alternative.

But on the basis of this, I think that somehow, while always standing on the outside, the NDP has become a 'party of the establishment', at least in the eyes of younger people. I suspect that under-25s will not, in large numbers, suggest that the NDP offers a fresh alternative to business-as-usual parties. I suspect that to the under-25s, the NDP is just one of the country's three established parties, and the out-of-touch image mainstream politicians often find youth has attached to them seems to be sticking to the NDP just as much as to the other parties.

How much does it matter? Well, the CPC can shrug off youthful antipathy, knowing that 'sooner or later, they'll come around' - that time makes lefties into righties, and increases CPC support. However, if the starting point for the NDP is a sad fourth place nationwide, and if traditional logic suggests those numbers will atrophy further as the years pass, then what hope do the NDP have?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment