One of the great things about working with students is to get to hear over and over from people who believe students don’t care about elections. Even in Presidential election years I hear this same thing from some people, young people just don’t care… Of course, national data from the US Election Project shows that the age group of 18-29 years of age is the least likely to vote does not help. If you were to look further into voting by those 18-24 you would see the numbers drop even further compared to older voters.
While the national data shows that younger voters are less likely to exercise their right to vote, what about Southeast students? Last year the University, in partnership the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, reviewed the voting rates of our students. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE know that no one other than you knows how you cast your vote. Whether you voted or did not vote is a matter of public record and this is all this report looked at. The University does not know who you voted for and the data provided to the University does not show if you even voted at all. The information shared with campus was only provided in aggregate form.
So what does the data tell us about our students?
- Our students who were registered to vote and exercised that right, voted at a rate of 61.6%. This is up from 56.6% in 2012.
- The overall voter registration rate increased by 1.8%, from 80.9% in 2012 to 82.7% in 2016.
- When you compare Southeast to other Public Master’s Institutions (Carnegie Classification) Southeast students in 2016 voted at a slightly higher rate than other schools like us.
- Southeast students who are between 18-21 years of age voted at a slightly higher rate, 42.6% than Southeast students who are 22-24 years of age who voted at a rate of 40.4%. Southeast students who are older than 30 years of age voted at a rate of 69.7%. Overall, students under the age of 30 voted at a rate of 42.3%
- When comparing our full time to our part time students we find that full time students voted at a rate of 41.5%, whereas part time students voted at a rate of 62.5%. In both cases our full time students and part time students voted at rates higher than in 2012.
- In addition to looking at a variety of demographic information we are also able to look at some general information to see that students majoring in areas including agriculture, education, English, and history voted at rates at least 5% higher than our campus voting rate.
What does the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement tell us? An overwhelming majority of our students are registered to vote. While there is still work to be done, four out of five of our students are registered to vote. The next step is who is voting? When compared to our peers we are about the same or in some cases a little better than them in terms of our students voting. While we might be better in some areas a detailed look at the numbers shows that when you look at all students who could be registered and then who could vote, we still see less than half of our students vote in a Presidential Election year.
The next time someone says Southeast students don’t care about politics and voting I can at best say the bag is mixed. We generally do better than our peers, yet there is also an opportunity for more students to get registered and for more students who are registered to exercise their right to vote.