Voter turnout in the City of Toronto – Part 2

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  • April 02, 2013

Why does turnout vary across space?

I argue that at least some of this variation is due to demographic and socio-economic differences.

The maps on the left show wards with below-average turnout. (The above-average ones are not shown.) On the right I have mapped census tracts in which there is:

  • a majority population of first-generation immigrant residents;
  • a majority population of visible minority residents, which typically corresponds with more recent immigration; and
  • below-average median household income. (These are census tracts in which the average income of all households in the tract is less than the citywide average.)

Turnout and demographics

We can we conclude from this?

Even without detailed polling of individuals, we can credibly infer that  people who live in areas with more immigrants and higher poverty are less likely to vote. Most of these areas are suburban. The reverse also appears to be true. Neighbourhoods with better-off residents and fewer immigrants are more likely to vote.

This should come as no surprise. It is well documented that people with more financial resources and leisure time, and who are native speakers of the common public language, tend to possess greater political efficacy.

Political efficacy: The belief that one can understand and influence political affairs. 

My conclusion is that when we talk about a City-Suburb split in the amalgamated Toronto, we need to keep in mind that this overlays on a socio-economic reality. We may be failing to incorporate immigrant citizens into civic political life through the electoral process. At the same time, we may not be hearing the voices of the least well off.

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