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Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

How Institutional Context Matters for College Student Voting

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.

This analysis uses the NSLVE database for the 2012 election, which includes voting and enrollment information for about 8 million graduate and undergraduate students across 897 U.S. higher education institutions. We merged NSLVE data with data from other sources, such as the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS) and the Current Population Survey. We then used ordinary least squares regression with robust standard errors to estimate the relationship between institutional voting rates and several institution-level variables, such as institution type and information about the surrounding community. Through the analysis, we identified several factors that predicted institutional voting rates, including demographics of the student body and various characteristics of the institution and of the surrounding community.