Student-led field efforts turn out the youth vote in big numbers

Peer to peer voter registration and mobilization efforts produce big increases in youth turnout

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Manny Rin, New Voters Project Director
925-234-1457
[email protected]

Nationwide – College-student voting rates in the 2018 midterm elections doubled compared to the 2014 midterms, marking a watershed election year for student voter turnout and engagement, according to a report today from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life

The report, Democracy Counts 2018, is based on an analysis of the voting patterns of more than 10 million college students on more than 1,000 campuses participating in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). Student PIRGs New Voters Project is a proud partner of the NSLVE project.

Across all students in the study, the National Student Voting Rate (NSVR) in 2018 was 40.3 percent compared to 19.3 percent in 2014. Data shows an even larger bump at college campuses with a stronger focus on peer to peer registration and turn out efforts. Student PIRG chapters at the following schools helped drive this effort.

Rutgers University, New Jersey, NJ
Voting Rate Increase from 11% to 42% = 31% increase; (+10% above the national average) 

University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Voting Rate Increase from 19.6% to 44.1% = 24.6% increase; (+3.6% above the national average) 

University of California, Irvine, CA
Voting Rate Increase from 11.2% to 45.9% = 34.7% increase (+13.7% above the national average) 

University of California, San Diego, CA
Voting Rate Increase from 11% to 38% = 27% increase; (+6% above the national average) 

University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Voting Rate Increase from 16.3% to 39.7% = 23.4% increase; (+2.4% above the national average) 

Berkshire Community College, MA
Voting Rate Increase from 19.6% to 40% = 20.4% increase

Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL
Voting Rate Increase from 19.6% to 31.8% = 12.2% increase

University of Oregon, OR
Voting Rate Increase from 33.4% to 44.4% = 11% increase

“We are excited to see Rutgers University as a nationwide leader in student voter participation and we are excited to see all our hard work pay off,” said Oriana Holmes-Price, Statewide Board Chair of the NJPIRG “Our future is important to us and in order to be heard on issues we care about, we all need to vote. Last year, NJPIRG Students and the New Brunswick Civic Engagement Coalition worked tirelessly to register, educate, and mobilize the campus.”

During the 2018 election season, Student PIRG chapters, helped to run peer to peer voter registration and get out the vote campaigns on almost 40 campuses in over 10 states across the country.  In total, students made over 1 million personal contacts with their peers providing non-partisan voter education and encouraging them to vote. Our efforts helped to increase turnout by 150% in student heavy precincts on average.

“We’ve helped out of state students register in state, freshmen who have never voted before, and even professors who’ve changed addresses since the last time they registered to vote,” said Will Shedden, Florida PIRG’s New Voters Project Coordinator and Junior at Eckerd College. “We’ve helped more than over 10,000 students register to vote here in Florida through class announcements, tables with free food, registration events in the dorms, and more.”

Looking to build on these results, the Student PIRGs will keep working to increase voter participation of college students around the country by organizing over thirty events during National Voter Registration Day on September 24th.

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Part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE, https://idhe.tufts.edu) is an applied research center focused on college and university student political learning and engagement in democracy. IDHE researchers study student voting, equity, campus conditions for student political learning, discourse, participation, and agency for underrepresented and marginalized students. IDHE’s signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE, (https://idhe.tufts.edu/nslve) is a service to colleges and universities that provides participating institutions with tailored reports of their students’ voting rates. Launched in 2013 with 250 campuses, the study now serves more than 1,000 institutions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

The Student PIRGs  voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.