2012 NSLVE Findings

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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.

For the 2012 election, our analysis was based on the voting records of 7.4 million students at 783 higher education institutions. We found that 45% of all students in our study voted in the 2012 presidential election, with significant variations by race, gender, field of study, institution type, and more.

Some major findings:

  • Women voted at a higher rate than men.
  • Among racial/ethnic groups, Black students voted at the highest rate (55%), and among Black students, women voted at a rate of 61%, while men voted at 44%, which was similar to the percentage of white men (45%).
  • Education/teaching majors voted at the highest rate (55%), while students in the engineering and mathematics/statistics fields voted at the lowest rate (35%).
  • Turnout varied considerably by region of the U.S., ranging from a low of 39% in the Southwest (AZ, NM, OK & TX) to a high of 55% in the Plains (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND & SD).
  • Only 48% of first-time eligible voters chose to vote in person on Election Day. The remainder voted absentee (29%), early (16%), or by mail (7%).

2012 Student Voting Rates by Race/Ethnicity & Gender

2012 Student Voting Rates by Field of Study

2012 Student Voting Rates by Region

2012 and 2014 Student Voting Rates by Institutional Type