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Electoral Participation in Municipal, Provincial and Federal Elections in Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2006

M. Reza Nakhaie*
University of Windsor
M. Reza Nakhaie, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, N9P 3P4;


The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of social relations or social capital for voting turnout at three levels of Canadian government, paying particular attention to social contexts, socio-demographics and socio-economic forces. The data source is the Public Use Microdata File from the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participation, administered by Statistics Canada (2001). Results provide support for social capital theory. Those who donate to charities and/or volunteer have a stronger propensity to vote than their counterparts. Two other measures of social capital, social networks and participation in religious activities, are also related to turnout. However, their effects are comparatively modest. Among the social bases of social capital, community rootedness is an important predictor of turnout. Civic engagement or attentiveness to current affairs also significantly increases voter turnout at all levels of Canadian government. Finally, standard socio-economic and demographic predictors of political participation do show independent effects on turnout. However, with the exception of age, these predictors are not as consistent or as strong as social capital measures in explaining turnout. Theoretical and policy implications of the findings are discussed.



L'objectif de cette étude est de souligner l'importance des relations sociales ou « capital social » en ce qui concerne la participation aux élections municipales, provinciales et fédérales au Canada, en prêtant une attention particulière aux contextes sociaux et aux forces socio-démographiques et socio-économiques. Nos données proviennent du fichier de microdonnées à grande diffusion de l'Enquête nationale sur le don, le bénévolat et la participation, administré par Statistique Canada (2001). Les résultats vérifient la théorie du capital social. Les gens qui font des dons aux organismes de bienfaisance ou font du bénévolat ont une tendance plus marquée à voter que les autres. Deux autres mesures de capital social, l'appartenance à des réseaux sociaux et la participation à des activités religieuses, ont aussi une corrélation positive avec la participation électorale. Leur impact est cependant relativement limité. Parmi les composantes du capital social, l'enracinement dans la communauté est un indicateur important de participation. L'engagement dans la vie civique ou un intérêt marqué pour les affaires courantes augmentent aussi d'une façon significative la participation aux élections à tous les niveaux gouvernementaux. Finalement, il s'avère que les variables explicatives socio-économiques et démographiques standard de la participation politique ont des effets indépendants sur le vote. Toutefois, à l'exception de l'âge, ces variables ne sont ni aussi constantes ni aussi déterminantes que les mesures du capital social pour expliquer la participation. Nous discutons dans cet article les implications théoriques et politiques de nos conclusions.

Research Article
Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press

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