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Young Calgary voters could swing 2026 Olympic plebiscite: U of C prof

Youth vote could swing Calgary Olympic plebiscite
WATCH: Despite having the lowest voter turnout in the past, 18 to 35-year-old Calgarians could push the Olympic plebiscite towards a yes vote. Michael King reports.

The youngest generation of eligible voters could play a key role in Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid plebiscite on Tuesday — but only if they turn out to vote.

That’s according to Jack Lucas, assistant professor of political science at the University of Calgary, who has studied voter trends at the civic level.

Eighteen to 35-year-olds are 20 per cent less likely to vote than older generations government elections, according to an ongoing U of C Urban Policy study. Lucas said the phenomenon is more pronounced in civic elections compared to the other levels.

“Young people tend not to vote in municipal elections and probably municipal plebiscites,” Lucas said.

He believes that could prove to be an issue for groups campaigning against a 2026 Olympic bid.

“Young people are very supportive of this Olympic bid — much more so than older folks in Calgary,” said Lucas. “If young people do turn out to vote, then we’d be much more likely to see a close or even successful Olympic bid plebiscite.”

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Lucas pointed out several factors that have hindered young voter turnout in the past, including the decreased likelihood that they own houses.

“If you don’t home your home, property taxes are a little less direct [for younger voters],” said Lucas. “You may pay those taxes by way of your rent but it’s not as obvious.”

Lucas plans to conduct a post-plebiscite survey over the next few weeks to gather voter thoughts.

Who turns out to vote ultimately shapes the outcome, Lucas explained.

“It all depends on who shows up,” he said.