Canada’s PSE students make electoral voices heard with help from schools

If the landslide Liberal victory in the October 19th federal election has ushered in a new era of Canadian politics, it may have been due to the PSE student vote.

I’m really happy that post-secondary institutes are encouraging students to vote more because, from what I know, a lot more people have voted in this year’s election and I know it’s very important to use our right to vote so that we can have a government that best suits our needs.
— StudentVu Respondent

A post-election StudentVu survey of 1,175 PSE students from across the country shows that the long election campaign did not create the voter apathy that some had predicted for this group. 87% of the students surveyed reported that they voted, which marked a dramatic increase from the 76% who said prior to the election that they were planning to vote. The surge in voting numbers also reflected the rise of Liberal popularity across Canada as the election entered its final weeks, with a clear majority of student panelists ultimately voting for the Liberals despite an initial advantage being held by the NDP.

This groundswell of support for the Liberals began in the early fall, when StudentVu data collected from 1,500 students showed that in the weeks leading up to the election, the majority who planned to vote on October 19th believed that their preferred party, the NDP, would lose. A dramatic shift at the polls on October 19th strongly suggests that students voted strategically to oust the governing Conservatives. Nearly two-fifths of those who changed their preferred party said they did so because they did not believe their initial choice could win.

Postsecondary institutions in Canada reportedly played a large role in raising awareness about the election and removing barriers to student voting. 88% of StudentVu panelists said that their postsecondary institutions encouraged voting through initiatives such as hosting political debates on-campus, putting up posters, and more. Nearly half said that their institutions hosted voting stations on-campus, a strategy that one panelist hailed as being, “very helpful and encouraging for youth who don’t often vote/know how, as making it easily accessible encourages interest.”

Many PSE students indicated that this was their first time voting in a federal election. Far from the stereotype of the self-absorbed youth, these respondents, and the 72% who claimed they were “extremely likely” to vote in future elections, suggest that Canadian democracy is alive and well among PSE students. Many can agree that regardless of the election’s outcome, this trend is something to be celebrated.

Proportion of respondents who voted, by age group.

Proportion of respondents who voted, by age group.

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