VCU students voted at a higher rate than all eligible voters in the U.S. in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.
61.5 percent of VCU students voted in 2016, a 4.7 percent increase from 2012, according to an email from Charles Klink, senior vice provost for student affairs. The number is higher than the 50.4 percent national average for all colleges which participated in the report. 60.2 percent of eligible voters nationwide turned out, according to the U.S. Elections project.
The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement by the Institute of Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University measured civic engagement from more than 1,000 campuses around the United States from 2012 – 2016.
Klink, commended VCU students for their active participation in the election process.
“I can think of a time no more critical for student engagement in the democratic process when we look at how local, state and federal politics are shaping the contours of current societal issues and challenges,” Klink said.
Voter turnout rates among college students rose roughly 3 percent from 45.1 percent in 2012 to 48.3 percent in 2016. Women and certain minority groups — in particular, Asian and Hispanic students — voted at a higher rate. However, Black students cast less votes in 2016 than in 2012.
Keith Zirkle, a representative of VCU SGA, stated in an email political engagement at any level could steer students to become more involved on campus as well.
“Given current political tides and events, engagement is important to both safeguard current institutions and ensure societal progress in other matters,” Zirkle stated. “I think it also shows potential for students to get more involved in university matters that may affect them more immediately and close to home.”
The study also broke down voting habits across various fields of study as well. It showed students studying humanities and social sciences had a significantly higher turnout rate than students in STEM-related fields, who turned out in lower rates in the two most recent presidential elections.
Universities and colleges in the Northeastern region like New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts had steady increase in turnout at the polls between the two years. Georgia, Wisconsin and Mississippi had the largest decline.
“I interpret through these numbers, and in talking with students, that they are concerned about policies, practices, issues and impacts that are influenced by elected officials and want their voice and perspective represented,” Klink stated.
With the Gubernatorial Election a little under a month away, VCU SGA is holding a VCU Votes Activity Hour on Oct. 30 to encourage students to register and vote.
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. She is a previous Voice of America intern where she worked with the immigration and TV news teams. She previously interned with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
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