Thompson Rivers University

Decoding the youth vote

July 7, 2016

Fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student Brayden Wilson is the undergraduate lead on a research project funded by Elections BC. The project aims to discover how to engage youth in the voting process.

The youth vote can be a powerful one—just ask the leaders of the United Kingdom’s failed Remain campaign.

Youth voter engagement is a longstanding conundrum, but thanks to a research grant from Elections BC, a trio of students will pass around surveys this summer, trying to gain some insight into why young people—those aged 18-30—don’t vote, as well as what motivates those who do.

Once the surveys are complete, another group of students will analyze the results to develop a course of action designed to engage young people.

Supervised by Dr. Terry Kading (political science) and Dr. Jeff McLaughlin (philosophy), the first goal of the research project is to get feedback from at least 400 individuals in Kamloops and the surrounding region to determine if they voted in the most recent federal, provincial, and/or municipal elections, and if not, why not, and what might motivate them. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete.

“This is a question that everyone is looking to answer,” said Kading, adding that Elections BC is very interested in the results.

Listen to Terry Kading and Brayden Wilson on Radio NL on July 7


“The youth vote extends to 30, so these are people who are buying homes and having families, and they’re still uninterested. With the survey, we hope to discover why that is,” said Brayden Wilson, a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student, and the project’s student leader.

“The participation rate for that age group is in the 30 percent range. Why aren’t these people getting involved in the political process,” Wilson asked. “There are preconceived ideas about why—that they’re uninterested—but we need more than a vague sense, or best-guess.”

“We expect the survey to provide us with a much more nuanced answer to the question of why people don’t vote, other than that they just don’t care,” said McLaughlin. “We’re trying to find a new way to come at the question.”

Wilson suspects it may be a question of utility—how easy is it to vote? The survey itself is designed with that in mind; undergraduate researchers will be at the Kamloops Farmers Market on Saturdays assisting survey-takers, but the survey can also be completed online.

While faculty designed the parameters of the research project, the students have taken the lead in terms of constructing the surveys and organizing information collection, a fact that is very intentional, said Kading.

“We’re hopeful that when youth are asking for participation from other youths, there will be greater engagement.”

Check out the CBC interview from August 11.


More information
Dr. Terry Kading

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