Analyzing CU Denver’s voter turnout data

Students can vote on campus at Tivoli Station. Illustration: Alex Stallsworth · The Sentry

How to increase voter engagement
Students can vote on campus at Tivoli Station.
Illustration: Alex Stallsworth · The Sentry

American elections take place on the first Tuesday of every November, including last week on Nov. 5. Big elections, like the presidential election and the midterms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting out and participating in American democracy. 

CU Denver submitted its voting records to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement  (NSLVE) for data analysis. According to the NSLVE’s website, their goal is to summarize voter registration and rates so that college campuses can take into account how to further incorporate politics into their curriculum in a way that benefits student interests.  

The report, which analyzed data from the 2018 midterms against previous years midterms, stated that midterm voting increased 13.8 percent from 2014 to 2018, though voter turnout for the 2019 elections is not yet available.  

Although 78.7 percent of students were registered to vote during the midterm elections, only 58.5 percent voted. This figure puts CU Denver above average for college campuses, where the overall average rate for 2018 was 39.1 percent. 

Most CU Denver students chose to mail in their ballots, at 88.2 percent. Only 9.1 percent of students chose in-person voting, which was available on campus in Tivoli Turnhalle. 

The NSLVE also configures voter data related to age group, education level, class year, enrollment status, and field of study.  

The student age group with the highest percentage of voter turnout were individuals aged fifty or older at 77.5 percent. Meanwhile, students ages 18-21 had the lowest voter turnout at 47 percent. Perhaps reflecting this age difference, graduate students voted at a higher rate than undergraduates, at 60.7 percent versus 50.1 percent. 

The data showed the most significant discrepancies when broken down by area of study. In 2018, Library Science became the study area with the highest voter turnout at 78.8 percent, followed by Public Administration and Social Services at 75.3 percent, and History at 72.6 percent. The areas of study with the lowest voter turnout rates were Communication and Journalism at 36.9 percent, Computer and Information Sciences at 39.0 percent, and Social Sciences at 45.2 percent. 

The NSLVE points to Tuft’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, which has several recommendations for how universities across the country can ensure high voter turnout for the upcoming years.  

 The ideas students can most easily adapt and pursue are taking initiative to participate on campus and classroom discussions surrounding politics, as well as to empower one another to create a buzz around elections and what they mean for America.  

 By doing these things, college students can directly impact how their university invests in each election. Pushing to remove barriers around voting and pressuring university administrators to take a proactive stance on the elections process will ultimately lead to a more educated and politically involved campus. 

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