Expect youth voters to show up at the polls this year
“Young people don’t care about politics.”
Whether it comes from grandpa’s political rant or from our own representatives in government, this is a sentiment that college-age students hear all the time. With only half of eligible voters aged 18-29 voting in the 2020 election, our voting rates don’t help our case. However, the 2020 presidential election represented an 11 percent increase in nationwide youth participation in voting from 2016. The rate of youth voting is on an upward trend.
This upward trend is especially apparent on college campuses in the state of Nevada. In the 2020 presidential election, 71.2 percent of voting-eligible students on UNR’s campus voted. This percentage represented a 14.2 percent increase in eligible students voting rates from the 2016 election. The UNR student voting bloc is not only active but growing faster than the national rate of student voting. In 2020, the average eligible student voting rate at all academic institutions was 66 percent — 5.2 percent behind UNR's rate. When compared to other academic institutions, UNR students consistently vote at higher rates.
Aside from voting rates, there is more reason to believe that Nevada students will show up to the polls this year. Here’s what we know about college-specific voting factors:
- When college-aged students are reminded to vote at least once by a partisan or nonpartisan entity, turnout is predicted to rise by 15 percent. With several political campaigns and non-partisan groups like NextGen America planning to visit campuses throughout the state, students will undoubtedly be reminded to vote multiple times. Additionally, student groups–like UNR’s student government–have taken to registering voters themselves. Ahead of the midterms, we will see a huge push for voter registration on our college campuses.
- Going to school in a battleground state increases a student’s likelihood of voting by 5 percent. Admittedly, this trend is not exclusive to youth members of the electorate. In general, people are more likely to show up at the polls if they think that their vote will sway the outcome. With national publications like Politico saying that Nevada’s races are playing a lead role in the battle for Congress this fall, it’s no secret that Nevada’s races are front-of-mind for voters throughout and outside of the state.
Even though college-specific voting factors nudge Nevada students to hit the polls, what about students who don’t vote or “don’t care?” Students work minimum wage jobs, go to class, and shell out thousands of dollars for tuition and living costs. It’s difficult to make voting a priority when some big policy problems – such as student loan debt and housing insecurity – disproportionately affect students. However, with university student governments and the Nevada Student Alliance making advocacy plans for the 2023 session of the Legislature, we should also expect students to take a more proactive role in addressing these big policy problems.
Whether it’s at the polls in November or at the Legislature, students are up and coming as a force in Nevada politics. After all, behind most political candidates you will be voting for this year are teams of scrappy college interns and campaign fellows. This year, we will prove that Nevada’s youth voters do care about politics.
Amanda Vaskov is a political science and international affairs student at UNR. She serves as ASUN’s (UNR’s undergraduate student government) director of Government Affairs. In this role, she plans civic engagement events on campus, spearheads student advocacy efforts, and works with Dionne Stanfill—ASUN and Nevada Student Alliance President—to coordinate NSHE institution-wide student advocacy. Amanda is active on Twitter @AmandaVaskov. You can also find her on LinkedIn.
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