6 Ways to Get out the Vote!

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Thursday, November 03, 2016 View Count = 3736

6 Ways to Get out the Vote!


us vote

With days to go before the American election, campaign strategists from both political parties are considering the question: how can they get out the vote?

Polling numbers don’t necessarily translate to votes, for all the attention they receive. More important is turnout. Who decides to cast a ballot? How do they make that choice? Why would someone decide not to vote?

The 2015 Canadian federal election reversed a 30-year decline in voter turnout, making this election a good case study showing what makes someone vote. Voter turnout rose from 61% in 2011 to a surprising 66% in 2015. This is a sizeable change in voting behaviour, rarely seen in federal elections.

While every age cohort saw an increase in turnout, voter turnout increased the most for 18- to 29-year-olds, from 42% to 2011 to 57% in 2015. That’s an incredible leap of 15%.

Many factors combined to get Canadians to the polls. Canada had its first fixed election date and an extra-long, 78-day campaign, giving people ample time to realize there was an election taking place. It also gave them more time to familiarize themselves with parties, and their leaders and candidates.

For a long stretch of the campaign, the three major parties were in a neck and neck (and neck) race across the country, according to public opinion polls. Additionally, more advance polling locations were available, including a pilot of voting services on campuses, which made voting easier.

All these factors contributed to higher voter turnout. Our report, “Can You Hear Me Now?”, uses original data collected by Samara to explore the six main factors that influence whether a person will vote.


Voting rates go up when voters think their ballot will shape the outcome in a close race or when there’s a debate on a critical issue. Samara’s 2015 Post-Election Survey showed 92% of Canadians believed the outcome of the election would affect the direction of the country. In other words, they thought something was at stake.


People feel a duty to vote because it’s expected of them as a citizen. In the 2015 election, 49% of youth and 64% of older adults said it was “their duty to vote.”


Like everything else, voting is easier the more you do it. Paul Howe writes in his book Citizens Adrift: The Democratic Disengagement of Young Canadians that after their third time, voting becomes habit and people will continue to vote.

voting selfie

Image: CBC Winnipeg


People are likely to vote if it’s easy. It’s easy if they have the required documents, know where and when to cast a ballot, and can get there without geographic, time or mobility barriers.

The extended availability of advance polls as well as mail-in ballots made getting to the polls in 2015 easier than ever before.


People are more likely to vote if they’ve been asked to do so. They’re most likely to vote when they know the person asking them, but even a stranger can affect someone’s willingness to vote.

In a 2011 survey, Elections Canada found youth were more likely to report they had voted if they had been contacted by parties or candidates during the campaign.

Not only is contact linked to voting, but it also linked to an awareness that political decisions matter, as shown in our 2015 study on Canadians and political contact. Among young Canadians who reported contact, 61% agreed that they are “affected by the decisions made by elected officials “every day.” Of the young Canadians who reported no contact, only 22% agreed.


When friends, family, teachers or col­leagues share that they’re planning to vote, it signals that voting matters. People are social creatures and like to do what others are doing. In 2015, nearly 70% of people under 30 were encouraged to vote by friends.

How many Americans will cast a ballot on November 8? No one knows for sure. Advance polls have shown higher turnout than at this time in 2012, but we have to wait and see if that turns into higher turnout on election day.

No matter who wins next week, and whether voter turnout rises or falls, come November 9 we are sure to hear about who voted, and who didn’t.

It will all hinge on the six factors that influence voter turnout everywhere. Did voters feel something was at stake? Had they been contacted? Did they feel social pressure to vote?



Read the entire “Can You Hear Me Now?” report for more on voting and how Canadians of different generations experienced the 2015 election.


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