University of Oregon student voter turnout increased by 11 percentage points over four years, according to a report from the The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement from Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Learning that aggregates student voter registration and turnout.
From 2014 to 2018, UO student voter turnout rose to 44% from 33%. This turnout is above the national average. On a national scale 39% of eligible college students voted in 2018 versus 20% in 2014 across the U.S.
The highest voter turnout, with over 50% of students voting, came from students studying legal professions and legal studies, public administration and social service professions and health professions. The lowest rates came from students studying computer and information sciences, at 27%, business management and marketing, at 28%, and mathematics and statistics, at 31%.
The fact that students at the UO vote at a higher rate than the national average may be attributed to the fact that 98% of students voted by mail; only 0.5% voted in person on election day.
People who attend college can be any age, and while 18-to-22-year-olds make up the majority of UO voters, there are older people who vote at higher rates. UO students ages 50 and up voted at a rate of 75% in 2018.
Elizabeth Radcliffe, OSPIRG state board chair, attributed the rise in part to the group’s New Voters Project campaign and peer-to-peer engagement with students.
“We try to be as visible as we can on campus so that students can’t miss us. We know that there’s a lot of stuff going on and people are busy,“ Radcliffe said. ”And there’s a lot of stuff we have to figure out so voting might not be the number one priority for a lot of people.”
OSPIRG Students made more than 50,000 text, phone, email and face-to-face reminders to encourage students to vote. “I think we’ve seen in recent years that young people are becoming more passionate and more knowledgeable about what’s going on in politics and the world,” Radcliffe said.
Another group on campus encouraging students to vote was the Oregon Student Association, a group that campaigns for affordable education, who contributed with their Vote OR Vote campaign. The OSA website states that the name was chosen because, “Oregonians really only have one choice.”
Both organizations raise awareness by making non-partisan announcements in their classes and work with many groups on campus to collect ballots and educate the student body.
The 2014 to 2018 change is a larger increase than 2012 to 2016, which, while the overall turnout was higher in the primary election, there was only a 7% increase in UO student voting rate, from 50% to 57%.