I have always felt in my gut that young women - having so recently been girls and lived through all that girls go through – are a source for significant social change. I wonder what would happen if all young women in Canada voted?
There are some excellent campaigns going on to try to increase the youth voter turn-out this election. Girls Action supports Equal Voice’s “Take a Girl to Vote” campaign and Apathy is Boring’s “I WILL VOTE” campaign. (See links at bottom)
An interesting but little-known trend is how young women and men, on the whole, have rather different outlooks on social issues. And, I am guessing, this would probably translate to rather different voting choices.
I had never thought about this until I talked to polling expert Angus McAllister. “Time after time I have seen in national polls that young women tend toward views that favour environmental sustainability and social justice, while young men’s attitudes tend toward maintaining the status quo,” says the President of McAllister Opinion Research. “The ‘youth’ segment of the Canadian voting-age population is more complex when you break it down by gender.”
Intriguing, I thought. Then I got to see for my own self. In January 2011, Girls Action Foundation commissioned Angus Reid Public Opinion to conduct a national poll to gauge Canadians’ attitudes towards girls’ issues. You can check out the highlights in our report Girls in Canada Today.
The results startled me. Over and over, young women aged 18 to 24 had strikingly different responses than young men. Examples:
Agree/Strongly agree that “Canadian girls receive adequate support to achieve their potential in life.”
63% of young women
100% of young men
Agree/Strongly agree that “Violence against women is a serious problem in Canada today.”
92% of young women
42% of young men
When asked if the following facts should be a concern or not for Canadians, here is what young women and men had to say:
“Teenage girls are 3 times as likely as boys to suffer from depression”
96% of young women are concerned
61% of young men
“Men outnumber women 4 to 1 among Canada's elected representatives”
80% of young women are concerned
38% of young men
“2/3 of minimum wage workers in Canada are women”
90% of young women are concerned
55% of young men
Please know that these results are only the 18-24 year-old segment of the 1016 adults that Angus Reid surveyed for us, so not a huge sample. However, the poll is representative of the education, geographic, and gender distribution of the Canadian population.
With such striking disparities between the attitudes young women and men, and the concurrence with many other national opinion polls, these results certainly offer food for thought.
And, I hope, food for ACTION! Let’s get behind all these campaigns to encourage the youth vote and programs that empower girls to realize that they can effect change.
The other question this gender disparity raises is: What about the boys? At Girls Action Foundation, we get that question a lot, in a negative way, as in: Why just focus on girls when boys have problems too? Our response is, and remains: We agree that boys need support and education to become more aware, to reduce violence and discrimination, to make healthy choices, and to think critically about gender roles. While it is not Girls Action’s mandate to lead an initiative like that, we have an open call to any organizations or educators that would want to partner. In 2011, it is clear that there is much more work to do to reduce inequalities.
How great would it be to one day to see “the young women’s vote” impacting change in politics?
Take a Girl to Vote campaign - Equal Voice
I WILL VOTE campaign - Apathy is Boring
To view our report Girls in Canada Today, click here.