Observations on Youth Engagement in Parliamentary Politics

Article 7 / 10 , Vol 37 No 3 (Autumn)

Observations on Youth Engagement in Parliamentary Politics

Low levels of youth voter turnout in recent elections have caused public concern about the disengagement of young people’s interest in parliamentary politics. In this article, the authors argue that legislative internship programmes and the presence of young legislators are both counter-examples to the trend of youth disengagement and evidence that some young people are actively involved in parliamentary politics. Drawing upon their experience as legislative interns in British Columbia, they offer a few strategies for youth engagement.

In recent years, parliamentarians and the public alike have decried the decline of youth engagement in parliamentary politics. This disengagement is most clearly evident in low youth voter turnout for provincial and federal elections.1 For example, in the 2011 federal election 38.8 per cent of eligible voters aged 18-24 years cast a ballot.2 In the 2009 British Columbia provincial election, only 26.9 per cent of eligible voters aged 18-24 years voted and 33.69 per cent of eligible voters aged 25-34 voted.3 Many young people are not voting which threatens the representative nature of our democratic institutions.