A dramatic spike in young voter turnout during the 2015 federal election was “critical to the Liberal majority victory,” a new report says.

The study, commissioned by the Commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, shows more than half of Canadians aged between 18 and 25 cast their ballots in the election.

Only 39 per cent of those in the same age group showed up to the polls in 2011.

“There was a major shift in this election in which the youth vote really did unify behind a single party and in doing so came out in larger numbers and probably drove that from a minority to a majority government,” Michael McDonald, the executive director of the alliance, said on CTV’s Power Play.

The data also shows that millennials gravitated towards a particular party more than in the past.

Forty-five per cent of millennials voted Liberal, 25 per cent supported the NDP, while the Conservatives only managed to sway 20 per cent of young voters.

McDonald said the numbers prove that young voters should not be dismissed as apathetic or disenfranchised, and that it’s up to politicians to effectively address issues that matter to millennials.

“Decision makers need to see young Canadians as a political force and respond with policy solutions that mirror their needs and expectations,” McDonald said.

McDonald said the study also sends a message to other parties that they need to do more to engage youth, who are expected to make up a quarter of Canada’s population by the time of the 2019 election.

“2015 has proven that (young voters) can and will show up when asked to participate, and when political leaders reach out, engage, and offer them a reason to vote,” the report concluded.

Employment, student debt key issues for youth

The data suggests lack of employment and the cost of post-secondary education were among the most important issues to young people.

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed said the rising cost of tuition and bleak employment prospects were having a negative impact on their lives.

Only 20 per cent of those who were employed at the time of the survey said they were happy with their job.

And nearly half of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to afford a home within five years of graduating from university or college.

“They were spoken to about those issues very directly by one party,” McDonald said.

During the election, the Liberals’ promise to legalize marijuana was seen by many as a move that would be most popular among young people. But the data shows that the issue was close to the bottom of the list of issues millennials cared about.

The study, conducted by Abacus Data, surveyed 1,000 Canadians in the Feb. 8 to 15.

The company said the numbers are accurate within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from the Canadian Press