Statistics tend to show dismal voter turnout numbers for youth, but students at U of T are calling for change – in the form of social media campaigns – and hoping their message goes viral.
“The thing that surprised me most about the responses from students is their extensive knowledge of political issues and the passion that came with it,” said fourth-year political science student Alex Fernandes
, describing the U of T Student Political Forum
’s federal election-driven video series.
Fernandes serves as the group’s co-president in partnership with Mayte Anchante, a fourth-year history and English literature student.
Why YOU Should Vote
We reached out to student leaders across campus to see why they think YOU should go out to vote on October 19th. Here is our compilation video, please enjoy (click to watch in HD) and remember to go out and vote!! #elxn42 #uoftvotes #UTSPFvotes #whyyoushouldvote
Posted by U of T Student Political Forum on Friday, October 16, 2015
The series is the latest of several U of T campaigns aimed at mobilizing the youth vote. Democracy Week featured a variety of events including candidate debates, panel discussions and pop-up voting booths. And the U of T Student Union’s #voteposal campaign, an election-focused riff on video proposals for prom dates known as “promposals,” encouraged students to invite friends to vote. (Read about Democracy Week at U of T, read about #UofTVotes and #Voteposal at U of T)
And it seems these type of campaigns may be having an effect. Mainstream media are reporting on the upcoming federal vote as “the selfie election,”
as voters snap photos with candidates and at advance voting polls (known as “voting selfies”
) to share on social media and encourage their friends and followers to politically engage.
Fernandes and Anchante spoke with U of T News about their goals for the video series.
Why did your group launch this video series on youth voting?
Fernandes: We believe there is a gap between politics and student involvement. We wanted to show students that all issues matter in an election and, furthermore, that their vote matters. We believed videos showing student leaders discussing their most important election issues would motivate others to think critically about their own values and use that when they go out and vote.
Anchante (pictured, right): In past elections, the youth voter turnout has been less than ideal. I often hear young adults expressing their displeasure with politics and government, which causes them to be politically inactive. By including students in this video and releasing it to the larger student community, we believe students will see how important it is for them to voice their say.
What do you want people to take away from the student election issue videos?
Fernandes: We hope to achieve a greater awareness of the importance of student contributions to politics. We also want to promote the idea that students can use their voices and their right to vote to carry this out. We hope it will urge students to go out and vote.
Anchante: We aim to connect students with political issues to which they can relate. By having fellow students voice their personal convictions specific to the 2015 federal election, we hope those who are not as politically involved will realize the impact their participation can have.
What do you want students to know about the upcoming election? And about your group?
Fernandes (pictured, left): I want students to know that any contribution no matter how big or small makes a difference. Also, they should know their opinions are valid and they should not be afraid to voice them. Students are equal stakeholders in Canadian politics. As for U of T Student Political Forum, I would just like people to know that our mission is to create a space in which all opinions can be heard. We do not associate with any specific ideology or party so we are open to any and all opinions and want to make sure they are voiced.
Anchante: Something we've noticed on campus is that while a lot of students have formed political ties, there are also many who do not yet identify with a specific political party or are unsure about where they stand on an issue. As such, the aim of the U of T Student Political Forum is to create a space where students who want to learn more about Canadian politics can do so without having to worry about having all the answers, and can partake in discussions with like-minded people.