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More young Canadians back a progressive agenda than older Canadians: New study of massive dataset

Findings released at Progress Summit 2015 raise question of how youth vote could change election result

OTTAWA—More than older Canadians, younger Canadians support increases in taxes tied to better public services, prioritize environmental protection over economic growth, support more spending on health and education, and want an activist government that creates jobs, according to a new study.

Could a Progressive Platform Capture Canada’s Youth Vote? is authored by University of Saskatchewan political scientist David McGrane and published by the Broadbent Institute. The study analyses the results from the Comparative Provincial Elections Project (CPEP), a unique dataset that probes a wide breadth of opinions through 19 attitudinal questions with robust sample sizes in every province.

“While we found that Canadians are broadly progressive on most issues, there is a generational divide on some key issues,” said McGrane, a member of a team political scientists that received funding from the Social Sciences Research and Humanities Council to conduct post-election attitudinal surveys over a complete cycle of provincial elections, from 2011 to the end of 2014.

This is the first time the complete dataset of 8,121 Canadians has been analyzed to compare the political attitude of older Canadians (over the age of 35) to young Canadians (35 years old or younger). The study was released at the Institute’s annual policy conference, at which McGrane is participating on a panel on Saturday on millennials and political engagement.

The study’s key findings include:

  • When asked if government should leave it entirely up to the private sector to create jobs, 77% of younger Canadians disagreed, compared to 66% of those aged over 35.
  • 82% of Canadians aged 35 or under said government should see that everyone has a decent standard of living, compared to 72% of older Canadians.
  • 72% of younger Canadians said the world is always changing and we should adapt our view of moral behaviour to these changes; 57% of Canadians over the age of 35 agreed.
  • 56% of younger Canadians said it was more important to protect the environment than create jobs, compared to 46% of those over the age of 35.
  • Among younger people, those who are university-educated, big city dwellers, Ontarian, or British Columbian tend to lean more to the left. Young people that have not attended university, live in small cities and rural areas, or are Manitoban tend to lean more to the right.
  • Notably, there are essentially no differences in the opinion of younger and older Canadians on the issue of raising corporate taxes, with six out of 10 indicating support. Younger Canadians are more supportive than older Canadians of tax increases tied to better public services.

“As we gear up for a federal election, this rich database offers important insights into youth political culture. One of the most intriguing findings of this study is that young people from all walks of life have relatively similar, and more often progressive, political priorities. Political parties would be wise to take a close look at what could galvanize young people,” said McGrane.

Added Rick Smith, Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute: “The results are good news for those of us championing a progressive agenda. More young people, more often, support elements of a progressive agenda than do older voters.  And in general, most Canadians – young and old – hold largely progressive views.”

The study is available online at


For more information or to arrange an interview with the report’s author or the Institute’s Executive Director, please contact:

Sarah Schmidt, Director of Communications, 613-857-2814 or sschmidt[at]broadbentinstitute[dot]ca

A note on methodology:

Abacus Data collected the CPEP data on behalf of the research team in the weeks immediately after each province’s provincial election. The survey was conducted in two steps. Respondents were selected randomly from a randomly recruited hybrid Internet-phone panel that supports confidence intervals and error testing. In smaller provinces where the panel was unable to complete the required interviews, Interactive Response (IVR)-to-Web methodology was used to complete the required numbers of interviews.

The margin of error for telephone-based random survey of 8,000 Canadians would be under 1%, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error for telephone based random surveys of comparable sizes in each province that CPEP examines is plus/minus 3%, 19 times out of 20. The CPEP data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.