Wednesday, January 4, 2012

580,000 people in BC decided on election day, May 12th 2009, not to vote

If you are a political junkie and have not read "Who Heads to the Polls?: Exploring the Demographics of Voters in British Columbia" I highly recommend it.   It was published in March of 2010 by Elections BC.  I also suggest you read "Motivations and Barriers: Exploring Voting Behaviour in British Columbia" published January 2010.  Also interesting is the "2009 Elections BC Post-Election/Non-Voter Satisfaction Survey Executive Summary Report."

The three reports uncover some interesting information about who votes.    The assumptions that political junkies have made about how elections work is not really true at all as these reports show that a lot of people vote some of the time and very few people never vote.

711,158 registered voters that voted in 2005 election did not vote in 2009 election.  Meanwhile 393,073 people that voted in 2009 did not vote in 2005.  There were 1,257,402 who voted in both elections and 633,829 voted in neither election.   This means the almost 80% of the BC population voted in at least one of the 2005 and 2009 elections.

1,104,231 people voted in only one election versus 1,257,402 people voted in both elections.   The inconsistent voters are close to the same as amount as the consistent voters.

When we add in 2001 to the mix, of people able to vote in all three elections, 955,212 voted in all three elections, 708,180 voted in one or two elections, and 183,147 did not vote at all.     Only 10% of people that were able to vote in all three elections chose not to vote at all.   90% of the public did vote in at least one of the three provincial elections.

1,148,923 people were not registered as voters in 2001 that were registered in 2009.

When looking only at 2005 and 2009 elections, 96% of people that voted in both the elections planned on voting in 2013. 88% of the people that voted only 2009 were planning on voting in 2013, 68% of the people that skipped 2009 are planning on voting in 2013.  And finally 1/3 of the people that did not vote in 2005 or 2009 plan on voting in 2013.  Putting this all together and close to 80% of registered voters intent to vote in 2013.

Of all non-voters in 2009, 63% had voted in the 2008 federal election and 62% had voted in the 2005 provincial election.   This means the majority of the non-voters in 2009 had recently voted.

Most interesting is when people decided not to vote.   31% decided before the election or did not even consider voting.   24% decided during the campaign not to vote and finally, this is the stunning number, 45% of the non-voters in 2009 decided not to vote on election day.  This means about 580,000 people in BC decided on election day not to vote.

These are 580,000 people that up until the day before the election intended to vote.  Those people who were planning on voting but at the last minute decided not to would have been enough votes to let almost every second place candidate in 2009 win the seat.

So why are these people not voting?

The two top issues are engagement and person circumstances.

Of personal circumstances, which was 44% of the people that voted in 2005 but did not vote in 2009, 43%  that set said they were too busy, 21% were ill or physically unable to vote and 28% were away from home.

Of people that did not vote in 2005 or 2009, 41% of the did not vote because they were not engaged in the 2009 election.   Of that set 30% were not interested in the election, 60% had some sort of dislike for politics and politicians.

What this all says to me is that you win and lose elections based on getting occasional voters to go to the polls and not about trying to get consistent voters to change their minds.   The 580,000 people that decided on May 12th 2009 not to vote are all people that are the low hanging fruit.   These are people that had planned on voting.

What I take from this is that 90% of the population will consider voting but they did not get enough positive reasons to go to the effort of voting in every election.

How do you motivate the people to go through with voting?   Telling them that Christy Clark, or John Cummins or Adrian Dix and their parties are horrible is not going to motivated people to go to the polls.

A well thought and reasonable centre of the road campaign that focuses on the positives and ignores the other parties is the one and only thing I can see that would engage these people to vote in more elections.  People a reason to go the polls and negative campaigning simply makes people stay home.
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