According to a recent StatsCan report, a whopping 7.5 million Canadians didn’t bother to vote in the last federal election.
If you think that sounds bad, hang on; it gets worse.
Canadians, it seems, can’t even come up with good excuses as to why they won’t vote.
StatsCan reports more than a quarter (28%) of the non-voters said they were simply “not interested” in voting; while another 23% said they were just “too busy”.
In short, non-voters are apathetic about their apathy.
But what does this tell us about the state of politics in
Well, one thing it tells us is that many Canadian voters obviously don’t find the political dramas that make headlines all that riveting.
Political games and partisan battles just don’t interest them.
And it’s not just the non-voters who are tuning out.
Many Canadians who did cast ballots in the last election likely don’t follow political news all that closely.
Indeed, a poll released by the Liberal Party last January indicated only 15% of Canadians pay attention to politics.
Of course, some people do care about politics.
The activists, the partisans, the media, the political junkies – these are people who love politics, in the same way others love sports.
They will read news journals and editorials, follow blogs and online forums, attend conventions and march in rallies.
And these people know the issues backwards and forwards; they will debate experts on radio phone-in programs, they will read every line of a party’s policy platform and they will have well-thought out ideological beliefs and values.
They are informed and enthusiastic voters.
But the fact is, such political aficionados, while often vocal, represent only a tiny portion of the population.
They are, in other words, a small, small minority.
This is a fact media pundits, political consultants and politicians sometimes forget.
Every now and then, they fall into the trap of believing that just because their fellow political junkies are worked up about an issue, that all Canadians must be equally concerned about the same issue and for the same reasons.
Consider, for instance, the issue of government “ethics”, which prior to the May 2nd federal election was a major concern.
Or at least, it was a major concern for the Opposition parties and for elements of the media.
For weeks the Conservative government took a pounding over issues like the Bev Oda/Kairos affair and the so-called Elections Canada “In-out” scandal and about whether or not the government was actually in contempt of Parliament.
Eventually, the Opposition parties, egged on by their partisan supporters and media allies, came to believe the question of government ethics was a winning political issue.
So in March, the Liberals and NDP toppled the government.
And the voters responded, of course, by giving the supposedly ethically-challenged, Conservatives a majority victory.
So much for ethics being a winning political issue!
The mistake the Liberals and NDP made was in assuming that causal Canadian voters actually cared about the kinds of ethical issues that people cared so much about on Parliament Hill.
Obviously, they didn’t.
In fact, it’s likely a large number of Canadian were only dimly aware of all the ethics controversies plaguing the government. And for many of those who were aware, it was simply not a priority.
This is a lesson all political communicators should take to heart.
Voters may not be into politics, they may not follow the political news, but they do have concerns.
To succeed, find out what truly matters to voters and craft a simple message that resonates.
Otherwise, your potential supporters might too “busy to vote”