October 16, 2014 6:17 pm
Updated: October 21, 2014 12:53 pm

Olivia Chow hoping social media, youth will win her the election


Olivia Chow’s social media stats are impressive – nearly double those of her closest competitor John Tory. She wishes the same was true in real life where she’s languishing, consistently, in third place. But her supporters are hopeful she can parlay her social media clout into election day success.

It happened for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi who was limping near the back of pack with eight per cent support, but eventually won with 39 per cent of the vote in 2010.

But there’s no guarantee youth will vote exclusively for Olivia.

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“I’m kind of waiting to see how the campaign plays out in the last week or so,” said Emily Barrette a 24-year-old who revealed transit and affordability as key issues for her.

People her age are one reason why many polls fall short of reality during election night.

“We have had a lot of incorrect polls. One of the reasons is that the methodologies have changed. It use to be that people went door-to-door and then they started doing telephone polling. Now we have a lot of robo calls and we don’t know the kinds of people that are responding,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.

READ MORE: Doug Ford takes a tumble in latest poll numbers

Emily Barrette definitely wasn’t responding to the telephone polls. Like so many her age, she doesn’t have a land line or television. She consumes most of her news through Twitter.

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This past Summer Student Vote, an organization working to increase civic engagement, held a mock election with high school and elementary school students. They voted for a Liberal majority and turned out to be more accurate than many of the polls conducted during the same time.

“We’ve done 23 of these student vote programs across the country and in 19 of them, the kids have forecast the winner of the [actual] election,” said Taylor Gunn, president of CIVIX and Student Vote.

One theory is that these students are echoing the political leanings of their parents, which would therefore be a more accurate way to gauge the eventual outcome.

READ MORE: Toronto advance voting turnout highest in high-income wards

Still, for youth to have a sizable impact in this election, they would all have to vote for a single candidate.

“If they’re voting preferences are broken down, the same as the rest of us, [youth participation] is totally irrelevant,” said Wiseman.

The city of Toronto and Elections Ontario did not provide youth turnout percentages for the past elections. In 2011 youth turnout (18 – 24) was 38.8 per cent during the federal election. It’s expected that participation during this municipal election will be high.

“There’s enough important policy stuff going on right now that it’s enough to drive anyone to the polls,” Gunn said.

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