• Southwestern’s 2018 Election Day Festival

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), student voting at Southwestern University was up in last year’s midterm election, increasing 33%—from 18.7% in 2014 to 51.7% in 2018.

The report demonstrates the outcome of multiple efforts on the part of the University to get out the vote and improve civic engagement, which previously earned SU its designation as a “Voter-Friendly Campus.” These efforts were led by Assistant Professor of Political Science Emily Sydnor, Senior Director of Integrative and Community-Engaged Learning Sarah Brackman, Teresa Cropper ’20, Laura Rativa ’20, Camille Martin ’19, Caroline Haywood ’18, and the Office of Community-Engaged Learning.

The NSLVE is conducted by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. The study shows that nationwide, the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared with the previous 2014 midterm. In 2018, the average institutional voting rate (AIVR) among campuses in the study was 39.1%, nearly 20 percentage points higher than 2014’s average turnout rate of 19.7%. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014, when national voter turnout reached historic lows. 

Southwestern University’s 51.7% voting rate improved on the 2018 AVIR by 12.6%. That level of participation surpassed both the 30% goal Sydnor had encouraged the student organizers to set and the 50% goal the students themselves wanted to work toward. The 2018 turnout rate was unusual for a midterm election, holding steady from SU’s 50% participation in the 2016 presidential election. SU’s turnout also bested the national participation rate of 50.3% reported by the U.S. Elections Project.

“The across-the-board increase in college-student turnout shows that young people are ready to exercise their political voice,” says Sydnor. “But the increased turnout at Southwestern is not just because students showed up at higher rates in 2018 than in 2014. It’s also the result of a concerted commitment by students across campus to register their peers, explain how the process works, and celebrate civic engagement. We hope to build on these efforts in 2020, both for the primaries and the general election in November, to further increase student turnout.”