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Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Cover of Election Imperatives report

Election Imperatives:

Ten Recommendations to Increase College Student Voting and Improve Political Learning and Engagement in Democracy

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Drawing from our research on college student voting and the campus climates of highly politically engaged institutions, this report offers ten recommendations to increase student voting and to improve campus conditions for political learning, discourse, and agency during the election season and beyond. The 2014 midterm election data from our National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) is a wake-up call to U.S. colleges and universities. Although 62% of college students registered to vote in the 2014 midterms, turnout was far lower, as low as 12% for students ages 18–21. (Explore 2014 data here.)

We view increasing voting and civic learning/participation in democracy as related and symbiotic goals. An election offers the proverbial “teachable moment” for reinforcing or introducing important principles and practices of shared responsibility, inclusion and equity, respect for dissenting viewpoints, skilled controversial issue discussions, student voice and agency, transparency and collaborative decision-making, and standards of evidence and truth. Political learning and engagement should be pervasive, and it should happen year-round, and every year, which is why we refer to this work as “Politics 365.” 

Election Imperatives is a collaborative, practitioner-focused document that grounds this important work in years of research. In this document, you'll find ten recommendations for what campuses can do to make 2018 an important moment for student political learning. As you implement these practices on your campus, be sure to explore complementary resources from IDHE and others in the links below.

Election Imperatives Partner Organizations