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Survey asks why voter turnout is usually low in Newfoundland and Labrador

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The results of an online poll commissioned by The Telegram suggest people in Newfoundland and Labrador primarily attribute past elections’ low voter turnout to a frustration with the political landscape in the province.

Thursday’s provincial election will determine if that holds true this time around.

The Telegram commissioned Narrative Research to conduct the online survey between May 8 and May 12 across the province. The survey explored why Newfoundland and Labrador voter turnout is typically lower than in other provinces, and what changes might increase voter turnout.

A total of 761 people from across the province took part in the survey.

Margaret Brigley, CEO and partner of Narrative Research, said last month Prince Edward Island held a provincial election in which more than 80 per cent of residents voted.

By contrast, in Newfoundland and Labrador, only 55 per cent voted in the 2015 provincial election.

“There is a perception that there is no difference between political parties, and a sense that politicians are not trustworthy or will not act on important issues,” Brigley said. “Residents voice frustration that promises are not being kept.”

The survey explored reactions to a number of voter reform ideas that could be considered in the future to enhance the likelihood of voting.

The poll showed that:

• Two-thirds would be more likely to vote if they were able to vote online. While most residents of the province are receptive to this idea, millennials are notably more likely (77 per cent) than baby boomers/seniors (57 per cent) to consider this the case.

• Opinion is mixed about whether having the ability to vote by phone would increase the likelihood of voting. Less than half (45 per cent) would be more likely to vote if they had the ability to do so by phone, while the same percentage said they would not. Once again, age influences opinions on this topic, with 56 per cent of millennials being more inclined to vote if they could vote by phone, versus 37 per cent of baby boomers/seniors.

• Lowering the voting age is not considered an effective voting reform solution. Close to three-quarters (73 per cent) of residents do not think the voting age should be lowered to the age of 16.

Rather than focus on "who" residents will vote for, the survey looked to assess if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians plan to vote, how informed they are about their local political landscape and if they think their vote will make a difference.

While a margin of error cannot be applied because of the non-probability sampling methodology, the poll’s respondents reflect the distribution of the province’s population (by region, age and gender).

glen.whiffen@thetelegram.com

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