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Voting on Cleveland State University’s Campus Up in 2020: College-student voting skyrocketed nationwide in 2020, new report finds

Cleveland State University’s Office of Civic Engagement, in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, reported today that the student voting rate on its campus increased significantly in last year’s presidential election, rising to 73.5% in 2020, up 8.7% from the 2016 presidential election voting rate. The Voting Rate for All Institutions according to the 2020 NSLVE (National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement) Report was 66% which puts CSU’s voting rate 7.5% higher than the average Voting Rate for All Institutions in the report.

89% of CSU’s students who were voting eligible were registered to vote in 2020 and of that percentage, 82.6% actually voted on Election Day. “While voting rates are increasing across all age groups, recently, the most significant increases are being seen across all higher education institutions among first-time and the youngest eligible voters. This demonstrates that civic engagement around voter registration and get out the vote efforts on university campuses are having an impact. Voting rates are up among undergraduate (>8%) and graduate (>12%) student populations and all fields of study, except history. This trend is important for two reasons, first,  younger voters used to significantly lag behind older voting populations and second, it is proven that if someone is voter engaged at a young age, they are more likely to continue having a voting habit for the rest of their lives.” said OCE Director, Anita Ruf-Young.

This trend is being influenced by other factors in addition to the increased efforts by educators to reach students and connect them to the issues and to voting resources, “including student activism on issues such as racial injustice, global climate change and voter suppression,.” said IDHE Director Nancy Thomas.

Each year, the CSU OCE submits a Democracy Action Plan to participate in the ALL IN Democracy Challenge. This plan guides the OCE’s civic engagement efforts, and those efforts have led to CSU earning the Voter Friendly Campus designation each year for the past three years. As part of this plan, the OCE actively works with numerous on campus and nonpartisan off campus partners including: Campus Engagement Election Project (CEEP), Campus Vote Project, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates (NOVA), League of Women of Voters Great Cleveland Charter, NAACP Cleveland, CSU’s Student Government Association, Diversity, Inclusion and University Engagement, and the Levin College around the topics of  registering to vote, being vote ready, ways to be civically engaged, and much more.

Ruf-Young said, “Bringing local nonpartisan organizations on campus to work with our Office to engage students helps drive up our voting registration and voting rate. Our goal is to create an atmosphere where voter and civic engagement is not just centered around presidential elections but all elections and where students have opportunities beyond voting that include becoming a poll worker, a ballot box opener, a volunteer for a campaign, or becoming a democracy fellow.”

Today’s report comes from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), creators of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE. IDHE is located at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.

IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE, pronounced n-solve) is the nation’s largest study of college and university student voting. Institutions must opt-in to the study, and at this time, nearly 1,200 campuses of all types—community colleges, research universities, minority-serving and women’s colleges, state universities, and private institutions—participate. The dataset reflects all 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship schools. IDHE uses de-identified student records to ensure student privacy. The 2020 dataset is robust with 8,880,700 voting-eligible students representing 1,051 colleges and universities.

Learn more about the Office of Civic Engagement’s efforts with civic engagement. »