Ottawa

Millennials could make a big difference this election — if they show up at the polls

Canadians born between approximately 1980 and the late 1990s make up the largest group of eligible voters in the upcoming federal election, according to Abacus Data.

Advance polls opened Friday ahead of Oct. 21 vote

This will be the first time John Wambombo has voted in any election. The 33-year-old became a Canadian citizen in February. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

As advance polls opened Friday, analysts say one group of voters could make a difference this election — if they turn out.

Millennials — those born between approximately 1980 and the late 1990s — make up the largest group of eligible voters in the upcoming federal election, according to Abacus Data.

Among them is John Wambombo, who was born in France and moved to Ottawa in 2002 to attend school. He became a Canadian citizen in February and is voting in his first election.

"For the very first time in my life, I'm actually participating in an electoral process, like actually going to vote. So this is a milestone for me," he said.

Environment, affordability top priorities

Wambombo, who planned to vote right after work Friday in his riding of Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, said his top priorities are the environment and affordability for young people, including being able to buy a house, pay off student loans and find a permanent job.

"It's about time that we millennials paid attention to what is impacting us, what is impacting our lives today and what may have ... major impacts on our future," he said.

Advance polls opened Friday. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

But while they make up the single largest voting block, millennials won't make their voices heard if they don't vote.

"It depends on whether or not they turn out, for one. This is true of any election. Turnout is decisive," said David Moscrop, a political theorist and postdoctoral fellow in the University of Ottawa's department of communication.

Millennials head to the polls in Ottawa, some for the first time

2 years ago
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John Wambombo, whose family is originally from Congo, became a Canadian citizen in February and voted for the first time ever on Friday.   0:41

Voter turnout in the 2015 federal election was 68.3 per cent, the highest since 1993.

However, there was a 20-point spread between younger and older voters, and in the last handful of elections voters in the 64-74 age group significantly outnumbered those ages 18-24.​​​​​, Moscrop said.

There are several reasons why that may be, he said, including alienation.

David Moscrop says that while millennials make up the single largest voting block, that's meaningless if they don't turn up at the polls. (CBC)

"They feel like it doesn't matter that they turn out. They care about politics, they have preferences, they have concerns, but they don't feel like their concerns matter or that if they turn out anything will come of it."

If the political parties want to mobilize young voters, Moscrop said, they need to reach out to them directly. Some are, through text messages and social media.

Even so, the campaigns are sometimes forced to choose.

"If you've got, say, a dollar to spend, you're more likely to spend it trying to get a 65-year-old out than a 25-year-old, because a 65-year-old is more likely to vote. But that creates a cycle of non-voters, and that's a problem."

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