By Callista Ryan
There is less than a week till June 7th – election day for the province of Ontario.
There is a question looming over the heads of Ontario’s political parties. That is, whether millennials will turn up to vote or not and if they do, where their votes will be cast. This year, 25% of the Ontario electorate is made up of millennials (those aged 18-37). This is the first time that millennials will outnumber their boomer parents in an election. For Ontario, this is truly the first “millennial election”. For the first time in their lives, millennials can play king (or queen) maker and can decide who forms the government in Queen’s Park come June 8th. However, there is that albatross of a question, will they turn up to the polls? Historically, Canadian politicos have written off young people as a viable bloc of support, but as the millennials have matured they have begun to show up and put their collective fingers on the electoral scale. Younger voters have shifted Canadian politics before, as in the 2015 federal election. With a 20% increase of the youth voter turn out, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were given the mandate of a majority government. We have also seen what happens when millennials stay home with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. So, what motivates millennials to vote? Let’s explore that question.
What is stopping millennials from voting?
Other than the classic arguments of political disenchantment and the lack of parties appealing to millennial priorities, there are several difficulties that can hinder a millennial voter from participating in their civic duty. One of the main stumbling blocks for these young voters is simply that they’re new to voting. While they might have seen mom or dad go to the voting booth and cast their ballot they don’t really know how this whole voting process works. Here are some common glass barriers that millennials tend to stumble into.
Beyond these barriers, there is the real possibility that millennials are truly uninterested in the electoral options presented for them. Millennials are different than other voting segments. Both their life stage and their generational circumstance influence their policy priorities.
Which policies attract millennials?
A game-changing millennial vote requires platforms that cater to millennial concerns. In our latest ONPulse opinion poll we found that the top three millennial priorities in Ontario are housing affordability, jobs, and the economy, with healthcare tied for third. To be relevant to Ontario’s youngest and now most powerful voting bloc, party strategists need to take their priorities into account, and for this election, they have. The Ontario Liberals are addressing housing affordability by planning to maintain rent controls to making properties more attainable for new renters. The PCs are looking to improve healthcare by introducing 30,000 hospital beds to give resources to hospitals and improve wait times. The NDP are tackling job concerns by pledging to introduce 27,000 co-ops and internships for students to gain work experience in their field of study.
The three main party platforms do connect with the younger population in some regards to post-secondary education as well. The Ontario NDP promises to waive overdue OSAP debt (which includes refinancing those who paid their debt back). Liberals are looking to raise the minimum wage up to $15 and have also previously passed legislation to benefit students such as free tuition for OSAP applicants who meet the requirements. The PCs are offering a tax break for all minimum wage workers, meaning anyone working at the minimum wage – will not pay provincial taxes.
Beyond partisan promises, voting is a unique social media opportunity. Politics is, more than ever, much more than a conversation at the dinner table. When voters post online that they went out to the poll and voted, it convinces their online followers and friends to do the same. Millennials are the most connected to social media platforms, and they can be used as a form of encouragement and democratic engagement.
© 2020 Abacus Data. All rights reserved.