Thursday, January 14, 2010

Possible implications of CAPP regarding youth voter turn-out

The convention wisdom amongst the Harper Hagiogrpahers seems to have shifted from "The Facebook effect is minor" to "How can the Liberals keep the outrage ramped up till after the Olympics" (Go to the bottom of the article).  I think the conventional is lacking  wisdom and is missing the reason this might be a game changer.

It is my understanding that Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament will be setting up functions to allow the general demographics of it's members to be evaluated.  Aspects such as age, gender and location would be interesting but I have a hunch that we don't need that data to expect the importance of CAPP to be very large.

Facebook is a young person's game.  I have an account but I only go on to join Facebook groups such as CAPP or the Left Wing Fringe Group Called Women.  I just don't use it as a way to keep in touch with my friends.  I would say this is the case with most of the Boomers I know.  But my kids are on Facebook several times a day.  For this reason I suspect that a lot of those members are "young" voters.

The path to exorcising our Conservative demons lies through mobilizing the vote of those most likely to oppose Harper.  Young voters are a large untapped reservoir of such votes.  Awakening them to the danger Harper represents to their future is a part of the process.  And a strong performance by Ignatieff on his campus tour, which is being chronicled on youtube, is a way to show them their is another path.

Voters in past elections seem to have fallen into camps with parties looking to shift soft voters on the margin.  This is especially true on the left where vote splitting amongst the anti-Conservative vote hands Harper the likelihood of at least a minority government.  Changing this stasis would require either the merging/dissoluion of some of the Opposition parties or the tapping of a new pool of voters.  The addition of an energized cohort youth voters eager to protect the future of Canadian democracy could be just what is needed.

Obama was able to energize lots of first time voters to break a similar log jam amongst American voters.  I won't be surprised in the least if P2 has a similar effect here.
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djn said...

I agree with what you are saying - a disproportionate number of those involved in the CAPP facebook group are young.

However, there is a topic in the "discussion" section of the main CAPP facebook group that asks what people's age is. The responses are surprising - quite a lot of middle aged people and even seniors.

Even so, I'm quite excited about the prospects of facebook being a way in which people in their teens and early twenties become politically engaged. There have already been examples of facebook being used to organize rallies on very local levels - at schools, universities, towns and cities - but never at the national level like this. I think this is the first time a pan-Canadian protest has originated from a facebook group. Until now, facebook has just been a means of organizing rallies that have already been coordinated by phone, email or at face-to-face meetings.

That said, from my experience as an "older" student of 28 who has been through a decade of student activism, the younger students are largely ignorant of "classic" styles of activism and political engagement - like actual petitioning (which can be intimidating to newcomers who are used to debating from the comfort of their keyboards), flyering, leafleting, canvassing and the other "real world" leg-work that is ultimately necessary to truly engage people - the vast majority of whom will not be politically engaged through facebook alone. Facebook is a wonderful tool for political engagement, but it is not a substitute for classic forms of face-to-face political activism.

But the fact that CAPP is organizing rallies is a great first step to "full spectrum" engagement. The youth are beginning to move on climate change, prorogation, and human rights issues. Old school political commentators think the country is shifting to the right but they obviously have no idea about young people. In the long run, Harper is going to be in serious trouble.

Ian said...

My prediction is that unless the opposition parties actually start presenting an alternative vision for why they ought to be elected instead of Harper that most of the 190,000 CAPP members will not vote. This is to Harper's advantage and he'll take another minority.

Let's see Jack or Michael lay out an accountability and democratic reform platform and then they can break 30% and Harper's lead in the polls. Until then they're crying hypocrites from the sidelines.

The Rational Number said...

LOL - "exorcising our Conservative demons " - you're literally demonizing Conservatives!