More people voted in the 2020 election than any before in our nation’s history.
And at UNCG, students turned out to vote like never before.
Here in Greensboro, Spartans were part of a nationwide trend on college campuses during the 2020 election cycle as tracked by Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).
At UNCG, 74 percent of eligible students voted in 2020, up an astonishing 17 points from the 57 percent who voted in the last presidential election in 2016.
That 74 percent figure was also well above the U.S. population at large, which saw a 66 percent voter turnout.
“I am so proud of the UNCG community for this voting rate,” said Kristina Gage, the OLCE’s Associate Director for Civic Engagement. “It speaks to the fact that UNCG is home to students who care deeply about our community and our country. I think it indicates that our campus has administrators, faculty, and student leaders who are invested in empowering students, cultivating student agency, and creating a culture of discourse and participation.”
UNCG also earned a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for nonpartisan student voter participation efforts in the 2020 election
The G stacked up well against other universities across the country.
The NSLVE report included 9 million students on 1,000 college campuses in all 50 states. Of the participating colleges and universities, 97 percent showed voting rate increases in 2020 over 2016, the last presidential election. But the overall student voting rate matched the national average of 66 percent.
Perhaps even more impressive than the voter turnout was the increase in students registering to vote. UNCG already boasted a 77.9 percent registration rate in 2016, but expanded that to 91 percent in 2020.
“There were many groups and individuals across the country, including us, who worked hard to engage student voters in 2020,” Gage said. “The Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, our staff, and student Democracy Fellows have learned from five years doing this work. We built stronger partnerships across campus, and have become more effective at educating and engaging students in the democratic process.”
Among the efforts that helped increase voter turnout was a “Walk to the Polls” event to highlight the on-campus early-voting site at the Kaplan Center. OLCE and Democracy Fellows also hosted 55 “Voting 101” workshops for classes and student groups.
“It’s hard to know what part OLCE played in this exciting jump in voter participation,” Gage said. “There were other factors. Our demographics include groups that voted at higher rates. Young college-aged voters care deeply about issues like climate change, gun violence, racial justice, etc., which played a large role in our national conversations leading up to 2020.”
Generation Z also grew up in an era when information is available everywhere.
“I know my students are getting hundreds of messages on social media each election season that have a quick link to a voter registration or effective election information,” Gage said. “There are great apps and websites now where you can type in your address and get info about where to vote, who your candidates are, and even get pizza delivered for free if your polling place has a long line. These things did not exist 15 years ago when I became a voter.”
Story by Jeff Mills, University Communications
Photography by Jiyoung Park, University Communications