Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Future Is In The Hands Of The Young

Frank Graves has sifted through the entrails of the last election, trying to figure out why he and all the other pollsters didn't see Stephen Harper's majority coming. His conclusions merit careful attention:

 In a nutshell, what went wrong is that Mr. Graves created state-of-the-art methodology to effectively random survey the entire voting-age population. In doing so, he drew in a big segment of potential voters who use cellphones only – 15 per cent of the total, double the percentage in 2008. This segment of the voting-age population has been either excluded or underrepresented in conventional polling methodology. They tend to be younger and to belong to the more than 50 per cent of the electorate under the age of 45 who don't vote.

While Graves clearly identified two voting significant cohorts, the data on non voters is highly volatile. But when he revisited the data, Graves discovered that:

if under-45 Canadians had voted in the same proportion as over-45 Canadians, there would have been no Conservative majority but more likely an NDP-led coalition. 

Those non voters swung the election to the Conservatives. It is in the party's interest to keep non voters disengaged. And  appealing to the young does not appear to be part of the game plan. By micro-targeting voters and  programs to the over 45 crowd, the Conservatives have discovered how to win a majority with 24% of eligible voters.

Graves analysis does, however, show where opportunity lies. The party that can reach the young is the party of the future. The present government is devoted -- in the words of the American economist Paul Krugman -- to "eating the future."


Anonymous said...

The youth vote was much easier to mobilize when there was a much larger percentage of the population categorized as "youth" there to mobilize. More potential votes leads to more attention paid to those voters leads to more engagement from those voters leads to more attention paid to those voters. Or so I suspect.

Is it a shame that the young don't vote? That the youth vote is not taken seriously? That the youth vote is too small (overall) to be taken seriously? That older voters seem less concerned about future issues facing the young and (perhaps) vice-versa?

It's a shame that so many of us, young and old alike, seem unable or unwilling to take a more multigenerational view when it comes to public policy; a view that would take into account those too young to vote, those too old to vote, parents and [great]grandparents who have passed away, and the children who are asking to be born.

Owen Gray said...

Your last paragraph is a succinct analysis of precisely where we are.

It is, indeed, a shame.