A new report finds that voting among college students skyrocketed nationwide in 2020; it was up at Sewanee, too.
The University has reported that student voting on campus increased significantly—by 29.1%—in last year’s presidential election, rising to a 66.4% student voting rate in 2020 from a rate of 37.3% in 2016. The full campus report can be viewed here.
This surge in voter turnout is a promising sign of increased interest in democratic engagement as a whole from our students. With this momentum, levels of voter engagement into the 2022 midterm elections are expected to be higher than those seen in 2018. The report comes from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), creators of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. IDHE is located at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.
Nationwide, the study’s authors report a record-breaking set of findings. On campuses across the country, students built on the momentum swing of 2018 and voted at high rates in the 2020 election, with voter turnout jumping to 66% in last year’s presidential election. The 14 percentage point increase, from 52% turnout in the 2016 election, outpaces that of all Americans, which increased six percentage points from 61% to 67%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“That students, often younger and first-time voters, turned out at rates commensurate with the general public is nothing short of stunning,” said IDHE Director 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 the issues and to voting resources.”
“The University has over time become a place that directly supports democratic engagement of various sorts,” said Director of Civic Engagement Jim Peterman. “The Office of Civic Engagement is proud to have played a role in bringing about this change, but none of this work is possible without the commitment of the whole campus. This award shows the commitment of the University and its students to lives of democratic engagement.”
IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE, pronounced n-solve) is the nation’s largest study of college and university student voting. Nearly 1,200 campuses of all types—community colleges, research universities, minority-serving and women’s colleges, state universities, and private institutions—participate in the study. The dataset reflects all 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship schools. IDHE uses de-identified student records to ensure student privacy. The 2020 dataset is robust, with 8,880,700 voting-eligible students representing 1,051 colleges and universities.