Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Voter turnout under the microscope

The Democracy Project

  • Print

OTTAWA -- Fixed-election dates aren't just making it easier for voters to know when they're expected to go to the polls.

They are allowing political science researchers a better chance to figure out what makes voters tick.

Or in many cases, not tick at all.

This fall, one of the largest election-study teams in Canadian history will be probing beneath the surface of the elections in Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

With voter turnout in most provinces a stubbornly low figure, the goal of the study, says principal investigator Jared Wesley, is to find out not just why people don't vote, but why they do. The study will also look at what people expect from their democracy and how engaged they are in the election process.

A survey of 5,000 people in the five provinces will take place during the campaign. Voter turnout in the provinces will also be used in the study.

"We are looking at whether people have really high standards for democracy or whether in some cases they may have really low standards," said Wesley.

Now a political science professor at the University of Alberta, Wesley began dreaming up the idea while an instructor at the University of Manitoba. It was not long after that the Manitoba government voted to establish fixed election dates in 2008 that Wesley began talking with others in his area about the benefits of planning a study to coincide with an election.

Normally, researchers are scrambling when an election is called.

Over the course of a few weeks, the group realized in the fall of 2011 there would be five provincial and two territorial elections, allowing for a broad study of voters, political parties, the media and other aspects across different regions in Canada.

The group includes nine researchers from six universities, including the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg.

Among the topics studied will be why voters in a province like PEI are always more motivated to vote than in a province like Manitoba. What drives people to vote when they are in a riding where the outcome is unlikely to change from the last election? Do events during a campaign, such as a scandal, impact turnout?

Wesley said of particular interest will be a look at whether people think politicians, the media, experts or campaign officials are meeting their expectations and whether their concerns are actually founded.

For example, if voters complain the parties are all promising the same things, the team will look at how true that is.

If voters complain they couldn't find information about certain issues or promises or policies, the team will look to see how difficult it is to get that information.

The initial results will start coming in to the researchers within two weeks of each election. Wesley expects to begin releasing snippets of data through blogs and news releases by Christmas.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2011 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jim Flaherty remembered at visitation as irreplaceable

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

U2011: Understanding the Manitoba election: University of Manitoba


Now that the snow is mostly gone, what are your plans?

View Results

Ads by Google