The 2020 election was a record-breaking success for youth turnout, which reached its highest point in years. This was in part due to the work of youth organizations around the country that have invested in the year-round work of organizing and capacity building—including the nonpartisan Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project.
As we gear up for 2022, we took a look at the 57 campuses where we’ve invested the most time and resources to do the deep community organizing work it takes to build campus cultures of civic engagement. The results were incredible, with voter turnout and engagement up across the board. Read on to see more highlights from this analysis and how we’re using this data to inform our work over the next year.
Community organizing works
In 2020, campuses with a PIRG club or chapter turned out at 6 percentage points higher than the national average. That means 89,000 more young voters.
Leading up to the 2020 election, student leaders and organizers on these campuses helped register more than 15,500 students and made more than 230,000 peer-to-peer GOTV contacts with students. This would not have been possible without the deep organizing of student groups, faculty, and administrators. Whether it was PIRG students in Georgia who organized a virtual vote competition between dorms at Georgia State University or Florida student volunteers calling thousands of students at our Halloween themed student phonebank event, the data shows campuses with plans to engage students through peer-to-peer outreach makes a difference.
A proven, cost-effective model for increased turnout
Students turn out when we invest in programs that engage them, and that holds across private schools, public schools, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions. Our work on these campuses focused on direct peer-to-peer engagement, which research consistently shows is one of the most effective ways to increase turnout. While the New Voters Project did plenty of work, other organizations, faculty members, and administrators did their part to increase civic engagement as well. It takes a village to build campus cultures of civic engagement.
For more in-depth analysis of these 57 campuses compared to the national average, click here to download our cluster report.
Gearing up for the midterms and beyond
Now, we’re gearing up to build on that progress and go big in 2022, honing our time-tested approach to youth engagement and peer-to-peer voter outreach. For more information on our plan, please reach out!
We turned March into a “month of action” to train young leaders on our proven peer-to-peer model. Throughout the month, we and our partners—including ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, Students Learn Students Vote Coalition, Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), Common Cause HBCU Student Action, Harvard Votes Challenge, Campus Vote Project, and The Andrew Goodman Foundation—hosted trainings, webinars, and voter mobilization challenges to help college students get vote ready for the midterm election and give young leaders the skills to run nonpartisan campus civic engagement drives.
Read more about the launch and month of action here.
I’m excited to hit the ground running as we enter into another cycle of encouraging youth participation in our democracy. I can’t wait to keep you updated and share highlights as we continue this important work. If you have any thoughts on our program or want to learn more about our plans for the upcoming election, please reach out! You can reach me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @mannyrin.
New Voters Project Director
About The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project
PIRG New Voters Project, Inc. is a non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with 4945(f) status. We work on 100 campuses across the country to activate the largest voting bloc in the country. Young people continue to be underrepresented in our democracy, so we work to make sure every student has the opportunity to have their voice heard in our elections by building a culture of civic engagement on college campuses. We engage students, faculty, and administrators to build lasting systems of voter engagement for the long term.
Since 1984, our field-based, non-partisan effort helped to register over 2 million young people and make over 3 million Get out the Vote contacts reminding young people where, when, and how to vote. We have tested new field models to ensure we are running the most effective civic engagement program possible. One study of our program showed that 82% of the young people we helped to register leading up to the 2020 election turned out to vote, while 75% of the young people contacted through our peer-to-peer GOTV program turned out to vote. This compares to 68.5% of a representative sample of college students overall who were registered and voted in 2016.
About The Student PIRGs
Students have the right and the responsibility to shape the future we will inherit. Our program spans over 100 campuses in 22 states of which 35 campuses have self-funding programs, that provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. Students have been at the forefront of social change throughout history, from civil rights, to voting rights to protecting the environment. For almost 50 years we’ve helped our campus communities get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change. Every year, over 4,000 students gain hands-on experience in organizing and activism by volunteering with us to generate 150,000 grassroots actions.