Study Shows Record-Breaking Voter Turnout for Women in College 

For years, older generations have often viewed the youth vote as unimportant due to perceived low voter turnout and have stereotyped college students as politically unmotivated or even apathetic. While this may have been true in the past, a 2021 study by Tufts University has disproven this stereotype and shown how the youth vote may be a vital part of the upcoming 2024 Presidential Election. 

Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) released its ground-breaking report “Democracy Counts 2020” a few months after the end of the 2020 Presidential Election. This report focused on the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE), a combined database of university student and voting records dating back to the 2012 election. The NSLVE was created to help research the correlation between college education and political participation. The study’s early data about voter turnout in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections showed that student voter turnout was concerningly low. In more recent years, however, student voter turnout has increased drastically. 

The study found that in 2016, 52% of college students in their database voted, compared to 61% of Americans. In 2020, however, the voter turnout for college students jumped to 66%, a shocking 14 percentage point jump from the 2016 election. This is especially important compared to the change in voter turnout among the general American public, which only increased by 6 points (67%). This unprecedented change in voter behavior among young people has closed the gap between generations, meaning that university students come within 1% of the national voting rate, shattering stereotypes about low voter turnout for young people. 

While the turnout rate among college students is impressive enough, the voting rate of women is even more monumental. At women’s colleges nationwide, 76% of students vote, following trends of high voter turnout among women. In 2020, women in university saw a 12-point increase in voter turnout, with 64% of women in university (compared to 58% of university men in 2020). The highest voting rate when comparing sex and race was white women, at 73% (a 14-point increase since 2016). Black women had the lowest relative turnout since 2012. Still, this demographic maintained an impressive 66% voter turnout (the smallest increase at 8 points since 2016), which could be attributed to a change in enrollment in universities, among other factors. 

The upcoming election encapsulates dozens of controversial issues that have plagued the country, with many being especially important to young people. While results about youth turnout for the 2024 election remain to be seen, it is not presumptuous to say that college students, especially women, will play a significant role in the outcome of America’s future if trends from 2020 continue. 

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