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College student voting rates skyrocketed in 2020

Voter turnout among college students jumped to 66% in the 2020 presidential election, based on swing momentum in the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report released today by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Jonathan M. Tisch College at Tufts University. civil life. The record-breaking rates are based on data from nearly 1,200 campuses of all types from IDHE’s national survey of voting and participation in college and university students.

The 14 percentage point increase to 66% — up from 52% in the 2016 election — outpaces the proportion of all Americans, which jumped 6 percentage points from 61% to 67%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read the full report here.

IDHE manager said Nancy Thomas. “We attribute this high level of participation to many factors, including student activism on issues such as racial injustice, global climate change, and voter suppression, as well as increased efforts by educators to reach students and connect them to issues and voting sources.”

“Students at universities across this country – from our community colleges to our leading universities – are raising their voices and participating in our elections,” he said. Dina CunninghamPierre and Pamela Omidyar are dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch School of Civic Life at Tufts University. “Today’s report shows that despite the global pandemic and systemic challenges across our democracy, college students are supporting each other to participate, vote and stay connected.”

The results include:

  • The students were excited to vote. 97% of the universities in the study experienced some level of increase in turnout in 2020. In previous election years, low “return” rates were a challenge for some universities; Students were registering to vote in droves, but they didn’t actually go to vote. In 2020, the rate of enrolled students who voted was 80%, up from 69% in 2016. This is an important milestone and indicates student engagement, encouraging each other to participate, and giving them their future and health, the researchers said.
  • Younger students outperformed older students. Students between the ages of 18 and 21 defied previous national and student voting patterns and voted at slightly higher rates than older students.
  • Differences by institution types still exist. Despite the gains across the board, between all categories of public and private universities, there were differences that are important to explore. The highest voting rates were achieved in private institutions; Voting rates at private bachelor’s degree institutions jumped to 75% in 2020, an increase of 17 percentage points from 2016. Students at girls’ colleges voted 76%. These changes may indicate differences in institutional and student resources and/or the retention of richer students—who vote at significantly higher rates than their lower-income peers—in a difficult classroom. They may also refer to the liberal arts and sciences as a catalyst for voting.
  • New trends are emerging in the uptake of demographic groups. Participation of Asian American students in 2020 was up 17 percentage points from 2016, although the turnout of Asian American students was still lower (at 51%) than other demographic groups. As in previous reports, women still vote at higher rates than men in college; However, the gender gap narrowed, from 8 points in 2016 to 6 points in 2020. Overall, white women voted the highest among the race/gender subgroups (73%), followed by multiracial women (69%), and men Whites (68%) and black women (66%).

Campus reports with individual institutional data are also sent to the approximately 1,200 colleges and universities in the study. IDHE research team members are available for media interviews to discuss the findings.

The IDHE National Study of Learning, Voting, and Participation (NSLVE, pronounced solve n) is the nation’s largest study of college and university student voting. Institutions must sign up for the study, and at this time, approximately 1,200 campuses of all types participate—community colleges, research universities, minority and women’s colleges, public universities, and private institutions. The data set reflects all 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 49 of the country’s 50 pilot schools. IDHE uses de-identified student records to ensure student privacy. The 2020 data set is robust with 8,880,700 eligible students to vote representing 1,051 colleges and universities.


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