Having young kids keeps Canadians from voting booth

A Statistics Canada survey has found low turnout rates especially for people with kids under the age of five, with single parents the least likely to cast a ballot.

Recent immigrants and workers with long hours also less likely to vote, Statistics Canada finds

Voter turnout in the 2011 federal election was 61 per cent. Statistics Canada found that having young children was one of the largest barriers to voting. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Single parents, new immigrants and those in the skilled trades are among the Canadians least likely to cast a ballot, a Statistics Canada survey suggests.

And one researcher says that's a worrying trend for democracy.

Statistics Canada examined factors associated with voting in the last federal election by tacking voting-related questions onto a recent labour force survey.

The project was sponsored by Elections Canada to link the labour force survey's large sample size and demographic data with voting behaviour.

Overall, the May 2 election that returned the Conservatives with a majority government had a turnout rate of 61 per cent.

Queen's University political studies professor Elizabeth Goodyear Grant said the findings weren't surprising as the data mirrored trends that researchers have observed for years.

But the depth of information available thanks to the connection with the labour force information helps flesh out those trends, she said.

"They say a lot of things that we've already been saying, but in some cases they clarify," she said.

'Busy schedule' leading complaint

The survey found low turnout rates especially for people with kids under the age of five, with single parents the least likely to cast a ballot.

"One motivation for examining family status is that many non-voters cited a busy schedule as a reason for not voting, particularly among 25-to 34-year-olds (who are more likely to be in the early stages of parenthood), but also among 35- to 44-year-olds," said an analysis of the survey results.

The survey also found that immigrants who've come to Canada since 2001 were less likely to vote than those who've been in the country longer.

Turnout rates among immigrants also depended on the region of their birth.

Immigrants born in West-Central Asia, the Middle East or East Asian countries had lower turnout rates, while people from western or northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand or the U.S. had the highest rates.

"The lower rates seen among established immigrants born in eastern Asia, in particular, suggest that they vote less overall, regardless of age or time spent in Canada," the survey found.

Public-sector employees were more likely to vote than those in the private sector, but among all the employed, those either working more than 40 hours a week or less than 30 hours a week were less likely to vote.

Those in skilled trades were less likely to vote than those with higher skilled jobs in areas like business, finance, science or education.

'Major problem for democracy'

Goodyear Grant said taking the information as a whole, there's a worrying trend.

"One thing it says to me is the people we consider to be less empowered or more socially marginalized participate less and from many angles that's a major problem for democracy," she said.

The challenge is what to do with the information, she said.

"The cross-section of people who are non-participators is so diverse it doesn't suggest there is any good single strategy, which I guess is a bit disheartening for people who really would like to see higher participation rates," she said.

"It says that there are no easy solutions."

Voting rates in Canada are similar to other countries, the study suggested.

"Since Canadian voting rates fell in the 1990s and voting in recent American presidential elections has increased, a long-standing gap between Canadian and American voting rates has closed," the study said.

"Trends in the United Kingdom were similar to those in Canada, but their voting rates remained above those of their North American counterparts in most election years."