Reasons for not voting in the May 2, 2011 federal election

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May 2011

More than one-quarter of the 7.5 million eligible voters who reported they did not cast a ballot in the May 2, 2011 federal election indicated they did not do so because they were not interested in voting. Another 23% said they were too busy to vote.

Main reason for not voting, May 2011 Federal Election

Description: Main reason for not voting, May 2011 Federal Election

The most common response for not having voted was that they were "not interested in voting" (28%), which also includes feeling their vote would not have made a difference in the election results.

An additional 23% indicated they were "too busy", which includes having family obligations or having a schedule conflict at work or school.

Note to readers

Data for this release were derived from three questions added to the May 2011 Labour Force Survey, commissioned by Elections Canada, to determine the main reasons Canadians did not vote in the May 2, 2011 federal election.

These voluntary questions were: a) Are you a Canadian citizen; b) Did you vote in the recent federal election held on Monday, May 2, 2011; and, if they did not vote, c) What is the main reason you did not vote?

Previous studies and post-elections surveys commissioned by Elections Canada have consistently shown that voter turnout rates reported in those studies are 14 to 22 percentage points higher than official Elections Canada turnout rates. The estimate for the voter turnout rate in this special LFS study (70.0%) also differs from the official figure published by Elections Canada (61.4%) following the May 2, 2011 federal election. The intention of this study, however, was to focus on the reasons for not voting rather than voter turnout rates.

For the sake of brevity, the reason "not interested in voting" also includes those who indicated that they felt that their vote would not make a difference in the election results. As well, the term "too busy" also includes having family obligations or having a work or school schedule conflict.

Another 10% said they were out of town or away, while 8% reported they did not like the candidates or campaign issues. Roughly 4% indicated they forgot to vote, while just over 1% said they did not vote because of religious beliefs.

About 29% of male non-voters said they did not vote because they were not interested, compared with 26% of women. Men were also slightly more likely to report that they were too busy to vote. However, female non-voters were more likely than men to indicate they did not vote because of an illness or disability (11% versus 6 %).

Age groups

Reasons for not voting differed across age groups. Among young people aged 18 to 24 who did not vote, the most common reason was that they were not interested in voting, cited by 30%. Another 23% reported they were too busy, while 11% said they were out of town or away.

For adults aged 25 to 34 who did not vote, 31% indicated they were not interested in voting, while a nearly identical proportion (30%) said they were too busy.

Among seniors aged 65 to 74 who did not vote, the two most common reasons were their own illness or disability (22%) and that they were not interested (21%). The most common reason among individuals aged 75 and over was illness or disability (44%).

The provinces

The proportion of people who did not vote because they were not interested or they felt their vote would not have made a difference was above the national average in four provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan. The percentage was highest in Quebec (35%).

Among non-voters who reported that they were too busy, the proportions were above the national average in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The percentage was highest in Alberta (28%).

Among non-voters who lived in centres with a population of fewer than 10,000, 33% reported that they were not interested in voting. This compares with 26% of non-voters who lived in large urban centres with more than 100,000 people.

In contrast, non-voters in the biggest cities were more likely to indicate they were too busy (24%). This compares with 20% of those in centres of fewer than 10,000.

Educational attainment

The reasons for non-voting varied widely based on a person's educational attainment.

Among non-voters with less than a high school education, 30% indicated they were not interested in voting, while 17% reported an illness or disability that kept them from voting, and 14% said they were too busy.

In contrast, 28% of non-voters with a university degree cited being too busy as the main reason. An additional 22% indicated they were not interested in voting, while 16% reported they were out of town or away.

Immigrants and Canadian citizens by birth

Reasons for not voting were different between immigrants with Canadian citizenship and Canadian citizens by birth.

Among immigrants with Canadian citizenship who had landed within the previous 10 years and who indicated they did not vote, 35% said they did not vote because they were too busy. An additional 13% said they were not interested, while 8% said they were not on the voter's list.

Among immigrants with Canadian citizenship who landed more than 10 years earlier and who did not vote, 23% indicated that the main reason for not voting was they were too busy. An additional 20% indicated they were not interested, and 12% said they were ill or had a disability.

On the other hand, Canadian citizens by birth who did not vote were most likely to indicate they did not do so because they were either not interested in voting (30%) or they were too busy (22%).

Employment status

Reasons for not voting also differed by employment status. Non-voters who were employed were far more likely than unemployed non-voters to report they were too busy (30% versus 14%).

On the other hand, unemployed non-voters were most likely to indicate that they were not interested in voting (39%).

About 21% of non-voters who were not in the labour force cited an illness or disability.

Non-voting by employment status is related to age distribution. Almost half of unemployed non-voters were under the age of 35, while about half of those not in the labour force were seniors aged 65 and over.

For general information or to order data, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-866-873-8788; 613-951-4090; labour@statcan.gc.ca). To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jason Gilmore (613-951-7118; jason.gilmore@statcan.gc.ca) or Vincent Ferrao (613-951-4750; vincent.ferrao@statcan.gc.ca), Labour Statistics Division.