Report: College Students, Voting and the COVID-19 Election

Posted by John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on October 20, 2020

College students demonstrated some of the most dramatic surges in voter turnout for the 2018 midterm election of any voter group, prompting high expectations for their presence at the polls in 2020.

Earlier this year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation released the 100 Million Project, a landmark study that surveyed 12,000 persistent nonvoters in order to explore the underlying challenges of electoral participation. Alarming findings showed the emerging electorate— 18-to-24-year-old eligible citizens, many of whom were registered or had voted before—were far less interested in voting for president in 2020 even than chronic non-voters. Young people also had the least interest in politics, felt the least informed, and struggled the most with the voting process.

But this was before COVID-19 upended the college experience and created the potential for a disrupted 2020 election. It was also before the police killing of George Floyd triggered protests and a national discussion of systemic racism that sharpened partisan divides.

Knight commissioned College Pulse to undertake a national poll of college student views on voting and the 2020 election, to gage their responses to voting during these unprecedented and uncertain times. Conducted from August 9 to 12, 2020, findings from “College Students, Voting and the COVID-19 Election” represent a sample of 4,000 full-time students currently enrolled in four-year degree programs surveyed via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal, and weighted to be nationally representative.

Read more and download the report here:

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