Green MP (Now not the only one!) Elizabeth May said this past weekend that she isn’t looking to take voters from the NDP or Liberals but she is seeking to attract those “so disgusted by politics that they don’t vote at all.”
You can pretty much add me to that group, although having voted in every election since I was old enough, I doubt I could force myself stay away from the polls. But enough about me.
Is that a sound strategy for May?
According to Elections Canada, who have a lovely table for your viewing pleasure, in the last election in 2015, the turnout was 68.3 per cent of the population.
Canadians, in fact, have been remarkably consistent since the first federal election on August 7 – September 30 of 1867, when 73.1 per cent of the 361,028 electors voted. In those days, voting went on for a number of weeks, probably because it was harder to get the email about where your polling place was.
Over the ensuing 150 years, voter turnout has been in that area. Canadians were particularly fired up about voting in 1958,1962 and 1963, with over 79 per cent voting. There were elections in 62 and 63 because the Diefenbaker government was elected to a slim minority in 1962, and then brought down the next year, leading to the ascendance of the Liberals and Lester Pearson.
In any event, Canadians were much engaged in politics during those years.
After that, voter turnout hovered around the 75 per cent mark for much of the 1970s and 1980s.
It fell to historic lows, below 65 per cent in the early part of the millennium, bottoming out at 58.8 per cent in 2008, an election that Stephen Harper won, without obviously inspiring too many. But it was back up for 2015.
The point is that the average appears to be around 70 per cent of the Canadian population engaging in every federal election. That’s not bad compared to some countries.That leaves Elizabeth May a good chunk of the population — 30 per cent, give or take a voter or two, from which to grab new voters.
So what’s up with this 30 per cent? Are they all, as May hopes, too disgusted to vote, just ripe for the picking for someone with the right message?
History would tend to disagree with that. I mean, only 73.1 voted in the first election and people hardly had time to be disgusted by politics then. They were too busy trying to scratch out a living in a cold, unforgiving environment to worry much about what John A. Macdonald was up to. And by the time news got to them about what he was up to, the election was probably long over.
But news travels fast now. You know what all of them are up to — a lot of no good by many of them — but that 28 to 30 per cent are still not voting.
I think that there are just about 28 to 30 per cent of people who simply don’t care. It’s not that they are disgusted by all politicians. They just are not engaged, they don’t follow the campaigns, don’t pay attention to politics at all, and don’t feel particularly compelled to get to the polls on voting day.
Good for Elizabeth May for trying to reach out to these people, but I don’t know how successful she is going to be.
And showing that May is not the only politician with innovative plans to get to voters, a Danish parliamentary candidate is advertising on PornHub. “Half the internet is porn and you need to be where the voters are,” explained Joachim B. Olsen.
Quick, somebody tell Elizabeth May. There’s a new group of voters to appeal to.