The Polls and the Proles

The polls are suggesting a Harper majority may be in the cards, but they may be counting out the wild card in this deck: young people.

How do polls work? Pollsters call people. On land lines.

Who answers land lines? Not many young people anymore. They’re constantly connected through their cells, mostly through texts. But those numbers aren’t easily accessed.

Even if they do answer a land line, they are less likely than older voters to take part in a survey of opinion.

So how do today’s young voters feel? Do they think a Harper majority is a good or bad thing? Are they undecided or just not interested?

It’s common that the poor and low-waged working class don’t turn out to vote, For those who do, a quick discussion is most likely to unveil how much of their opinion was formed by a friend or a slogan rather than thinking through their self-described self-interests. The disconnect is, always, surprising.

In this election the proletariat includes young people. (The Latin proletarius means a citizen of the lowest class, someone with no wealth, no control over one’s work.)

The recession threw 200,000 young people out of work in the first year. Today there are still 200,000 fewer people under 25 years of age have a job than in 2008. They’re drowning in student debt; out of work and out of sight during most of the public debate about the public interest.

They are disaffected by all the political bluster, and with plenty of good reason. But it is assumed they are, by and large, not paying attention.

That may be true, yet this year’s campaign has delivered up a flurry of fresh pushback strategies, cheeky websites, fun videos and mobs of students at advance polls. I can’t remember vote mobs in any other election, can you? Fun and funny, the young and eligible are rocking the blogosphere with politics.

The part that’s filtering through sure is not reflected in the polling numbers. But maybe they’re not even getting picked up by the polls.

On May 2nd, maybe young voters will turn out in unexpected numbers. And maybe LOL will spell N-O for Stephen Harper.


  • All of the major pollsters in Canada weight their polls by age. Young people appear in the same proportion in the polls as in the general population. Which means they are oversampled, as long as they don’t vote in the same % as other age groups.

  • It strikes me that the conventional polls are providing ample cause for optimism: “Jack Layton and his surging New Democrats are poised to see their representation in the Commons increase from 36 to 60 seats, denying the Harper Conservatives their coveted majority, according to a new EKOS Research poll.”

  • Or maybe you should have actually talked to someone who does this for a living. Most of the polls are now done by online panels – to which – usually sees an over-representation of young people. But secondly, all the polls are then re-weighted by age – so there is no unintended bias.

  • real conservative

    Who is Jack going to win 60 seats from again?

  • Elizabeth Maybenot

    All the polls I have answered are on-line so the above is stupid. Steven Harper will win, so you may as well face it….lol

  • “Most of the polls” are not done online, but many are, and it’s definitely the future. The pollster can get really rich data, they’re less annoying for the people to answer (they do it at a time of their choosing), etc.

    There is certainly a potential “digital divide” issue in terms of who is getting polled, though. Re-weighting can compensate for this somewhat, but we don’t know, really, whether re-weighting for various demographic factors captures all the qualities of those people who don’t have internet access. So compare Angus Reid’s final poll to the election results on May 2nd…

  • “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul will always have a friend in Paul” – George Bernard Shaw

    Layton is robbing Peter and the youth are Paul.

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