BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Voting by Indiana University Bloomington students rose by nearly 5 percentage points between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. The increase followed IU Bloomington's participation in a national effort to encourage students to register and vote.
"We can't prove our efforts caused the increase in voting, but there was certainly a correlation," said Sandra Shapshay, associate professor of philosophy and director of PACE, the Political and Civic Engagement Program. "PACE took steps to engage students in the election, and the outcome was positive."
PACE led IU Bloomington's involvement in the fall 2016 All In Campus Democracy Challenge, a nationwide effort to boost student voting. The initiative included voter registration drives, social media messages and weekly "walk to vote" events.
Some 45.4 percent of eligible IU Bloomington students voted in the November 2016 election. That's up from 40.7 percent in the 2012 election. Nationwide, student voting at all colleges and universities increased by 3.5 percentage points between 2012 and 2016.
Shapshay said the 2016 success should provide momentum as IU Bloomington begins its participation in the Big Ten Voting Challenge, a friendly but spirited competition among the 14 Big Ten schools to promote student voting in November 2018. Students in the PACE program are leading the effort in collaboration with the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.
Data on student voting were calculated by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement at Tufts University and were provided to universities this fall. The figures are based on enrollment records submitted to the National Student Clearinghouse and publicly available voting files collected by Catalist, a voter information and analysis firm.
Between 2012 and 2016, IU Bloomington:
- Increased the number of students who voted by 2,778.
- Increased the registration rate from 74 percent to 78.1 percent.
- Increased the voting rate for students who were registered to vote from 54.9 percent to 58.2 percent.
Most of the increase was in students who voted absentee, probably reflecting a rise in the number of students who voted in their home towns rather than in Bloomington. Fewer students voted in person on Election Day in 2016 than in 2012. While the voting rate at IU Bloomington increased more than the national average, the campus's overall voting rate remained lower than the average rate for all colleges and universities and the average rate for all public research universities.
Older students at IU Bloomington were more likely to vote than younger students, graduate students were more likely to vote than undergraduates, and female students were more likely to vote than male students. The highest voting rates were among those studying area and ethnic studies, English language and literature, library science, natural resources and conversation, and philosophy and religious studies.
News media may request copies of IU Bloomington's 2016 voting report by contacting Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.