Calgary-Buffalo contender says young voters more knowledgeable on social issues than democratic process
“Jersey Shore” and “The Bachelor” seem to thrive among young people, while terms like fiscal policy and program subsidization may be met with confused glances.
There’s no question that political issues are relevant to young voters; however getting them involved seems to be the big problem.
A 2008 Elections Alberta survey indicates half of respondents aged 18 to 24 voted in the last provincial election. The number for those aged 25 to 34 was a little higher at 61 per cent, but still smaller number than older demographics.
Brandon Hamilton, 23, a Mount Royal University business student, recognizes the lack of interest in politics by others in his age group.
“The problem is that people our age just don’t seem to care,” Hamilton says. “They think the issues don’t really affect their day-to-day operations.”
Although he acknowledges the problem, Hamilton says he couldn’t think of possible solutions to the political ignorance of voters his age.
Jamie Lall, a 27-year-old Progressive Conservative candidate running in the Calgary-Buffalo riding, says his generation is just starting to develop its footing and understand the political process.
“My generation, we’re just starting to find out who we are,” Lall says. “Our parents had the cultural revolution, their parents had World War II, and we’re just trying to find our footing and determine what issues are important to us.”
Pat Walsh, Lall’s campaign advisor, notes that many people in the young demographic are more concerned with social programs rather than policy.
“They’re way more hip to addiction, mental health, eating disorders and things like that,” Walsh says.
Although young voters appear to be knowledgeable on social issues, Lall says they don’t always understand the way the democratic process works.
“Some people are political junkies and know the system, and some don’t,” Lall says. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘Well, can’t you just write them a cheque?’ There’s nothing wrong with them asking that, but it’s my job to try to explain that the process doesn’t work like that.”
Business student Hamilton notes that for this election, social issues are not his primary concern. He feels that other issues hit closer to home.
“Ask people my age what’s the most important thing, and you’ll probably hear education and health care,” Hamilton says. “In this provincial election, there are parties proposing complete polar opposites on each subject.”
Social media and political candidates
Many young people interested in politics seek information through websites or social media networks.
“My generation, we’re just starting to find out who we are. Our parents had the cultural revolution, their parents had World War II, and we’re just trying to find our footing and determine what issues are important to us.”
— Jamie Lall, PC candidate
Hamilton notes that he obtains the majority of his information from Twitter, through 140-character tidbits or through links to more extensive websites.
Lall says that social media is a great way to interact and understand the young population.
“I think technology helps me to serve the public,” Lall says. “The accessibility of political figures on Twitter really seems to resonate with young people.”
Walsh, however, notes that reading quick informative blurbs doesn’t offer the whole story.
“There’s so many tweets that people don’t get all the information,” says Walsh. “It’s so easy on Twitter or in a policy handbook to deal in absolutes. If you just do X, then Y is the end result, but it’s not that simple.”