Had a really nice breakfast with Taylor Gunn of Student Vote yesterday. For those who aren’t familiar with their work I strongly encourage you to take a look at their website. For me, they are a great reminder that citizenship is a learnt skill and responsibility – and they work as hard as anyone to foster it.
Looking over the Student Vote website I was struck by their results for the BC election. I wasn’t surprised by the NDP’s strong and the Green’s (relatively strong) showing as young people tend to lean left. Indeed, if anything I was surprised the Green’s didn’t do better given how much I thought the party was driven by youth. No what surprised me was the referendum outcome – specifically how poorly the BC-STV vote did among student “voters” particularly in comparison to last time.
Gunn was telling me that last time, student “voters” passed BC-STV whereas this time the referendum was defeated 55.59% vs. 44.41% with 64 districts opposed and only 17 in favour. This means even among some of the most idealistic “voters” in the province support dropped at least %15 and likely more (I don’t know the specific results for the last election). My sense is that there are again two reasons for this:
1) that reframing the question to a choice between two systems as opposed to a “yes” or “no” for change may have affected voters more dramatically then people thought. Do people want change? Frequently they say yes. But show them what the specifics of what that change will be and they are often less enthusiastic. I’ve always been struck by an exit poll I remember seeing after the 2001 election in which only 35% of voters who voted “yes” in the referendum actually knew what they were voting for.
2) the second is that I think more exposure to BC-STV – both positive and negative – had a culminative negative impact. BC-STV supporters beleived that the more people learnt about BC-STV the more they would like it. I think they exact opposite occured. The more they learnt, the more questions they had and the less the understood or liked the proposed system. I’m open to the possibility that all these student voters were exposed to a negative add campaign that shifted their opinions but it feels a little like a stretch.