How to get Saskatchewan youth to vote

A young woman wearing a backpack approaching glass doors to enter a building. There are yellow signs with arrows and the word “vote” posted on the doors.

How to get Saskatchewan youth to vote

A social sciences lab helps the province speak to young voters
April 1, 2016

Getting young people to vote is notoriously difficult, so imagine convincing them to fill out an online survey on the electoral process. A team at the University of Saskatchewan’s Social Sciences Research Laboratories (SSRL) had to resort to bribery to pull together fewer than 400 18 to 24-year-olds for interviews on the subject. Participants were entered into a draw for an Apple iPad, a small price for valuable insight that could boost the number of voters in the province’s election next week.

The SSRL is a research facility with specialized research equipment and software that provides expertise in quantitative and survey research, qualitative research, and mapping, to name a few. The SSRL has worked with Elections Saskatchewan, among others, to conduct surveys on voter behaviour. The laboratories credit funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for helping them attract such a partner.

Michael Atkinson, a faculty member at the university’s Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, has partnered with the SSRL on some of its projects. In 2014, Atkinson’s team was asked by Elections Saskatchewan to collect data that would highlight obstacles to youth voting. The survey determined the participants’ level of awareness on key voter details such as eligibility, identification documents, where to vote and the timing of advance polls. It also asked participants who did not vote what their reasons were for not doing so.

The survey found that participants had adequate knowledge of the process, but had some confusion regarding items such as ID requirements. It also showed that young people would be comfortable using a mobile device to vote and that they voted not because they believed it was their duty, but rather because they thought it would have a material impact on their lives.

This valuable information can help Elections Saskatchewan frame its communications to this demographic in order to attract more young voters to the next provincial election on April 4, 2016. Elections Saskatchewan will soon conduct another assessment in collaboration with the SSRL, this time looking at election administration practices. It will be the most thorough survey of the provincial elections process that has ever been done in the country.