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Creating and Maintaining the NSLVE Database

The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) offers colleges and universities an opportunity to learn their student registration and voting rates and, for interested campuses, a closer examination of their campus climate for political learning and engagement and correlations between specific student learning experiences and voting. The study is both a service to colleges and universities interested in learning about their students’ voting habits and a national database for research on college student political learning and engagement in democracy.

In this report, we describe the systematic process of creating and maintaining the NSLVE database. The process includes: 1) recruiting college and university campuses to obtain permission to use student data; 2) partnering with the National Student Clearinghouse (“the Clearinghouse”) to obtain student enrollment records; 3) purchasing publicly available voting records from an organization called Catalist; 4) working with the Clearinghouse to merge and de-identify student enrollmentand voting records; and 5) calculating institutional voting rates.

The report is co-written by Nancy Thomas, director of our Institute for Demoracy & Higher Education (IDHE) and principal investigator of NSLVE, and Jodi Benenson, who worked closely on NSLVE while a postdoctoral scholar at IDHE and is now an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Administration
at the University of Nebraska Omaha.