Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

A Practitioner's Perspective on Institutionalizing Voter Registration on College & University Campuses

Robert Donahue Northwestern University

Abstract

For the past decade, Northwestern University has implemented an initiative which has resulted in a voter registration rate averaging around 90% of its entire eligible student body. Meanwhile, this concentrated effort to integrate comprehensive voter registration and engagement initiatives into University operations increased voting among eligible students by over 15 percentage points between 2012 and 2016, with 64.3% of all eligible student voters casting a ballot in the 2016 general election. This paper reflects the experience of a civic engagement practitioner at Northwestern working with colleagues to cultivate a new cultural norm of student voting at the University, and describes the process, results, and lessons learned from this effort to institutionalize voter engagement.

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