Student Voter Engagement Increases Significantly in 2020

University of Scranton college-student registration and voting saw significant increase in 2020 along with nationwide uptick in 2020, a new report finds.
Student Voter Engagement Increases Significantly in 2020

The University of Scranton is proud to report that student voting on its campus increased significantly in last year’s presidential election, rising to 73.1% in 2020 from a rate of 50.6% in 2016 and 7 points above the 66% 2020 student national average. The University also increased voter registration rates, with 86.7% of eligible voters registering compared to the 83% national average. The full campus report can be viewed here

In addition to the national context of increased voter turnout amid high polarization, The University of Scranton implemented new non-partisan civic engagement initiatives aimed at spurring student voting. In 2020, the University launched a new “Royals Vote” initiative to help increase student voter turnout through voter engagement and education. This effort was a partnership between Student Government and the Office of Community and Government Relations and included programs such as in-class presentations by student government senators, voting office hours and a call-in line, an extensive social media campaign and the creation of a website to share the most up-to-date voting information as the election drew near. This information was especially important due to the increase of mail-in voting options during the COVID-19 pandemic and on election day 2020, student government organized outdoor campus tabling to provide information on polling locations. 

“This [initiative] was a way for us to foster civic engagement among our student body and learn more about our democracy. We found that Scranton students were engaged and excited about the election and appreciated the Royals Vote initiative for giving them direction on voter registration and education. Many students wanted to participate in the election but needed guidance on how, where and when to get involved. Royals Vote was able to answer these questions and more,” said Julia Hack ’21 who served as the chief of staff of Student Government for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

In addition to launching the “Royals Vote” initiative, this year the University joined The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, which empowers colleges and universities to achieve excellence in nonpartisan student democratic engagement. During the 2020 election cycle, The University of Scranton participated in the ALL IN Challenge 2020 by creating a civic action plan to further involve the campus community in the effort to increase voting rates and engagement. The Royals delivered this election cycle with 73.1% voting rate, earning the University a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Challenge. You can view the 2020 Action Plan and learn more about the ALL IN Challenge here

“It’s incredibly important that we engage with our peers and the campus community about the importance of voting in every election. Positioned in a swing region of the most important swing state in the country, our votes have the power to sway the outcomes of critical elections for Governor, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and others in next year’s midterm elections” said Conor Nelon ’22 Political Science & Strategic Communication Major and Student Government Chief of Staff.

Additionally, the University’s Political Dialogues Working Group, begun in 2017, held a series of topical dialogues that connected voting, values and civic identity in the runup to the 2020 election. 

“The most powerful tool we have as citizens is our ability to vote. When we work together as a community to increase the number of people that vote in each election it means our community receives better representation, more funding and a better quality of life. As we make progress together it is imperative that we understand the history of voting and the availability of neutral informational resources in order to increase voter turnout,” said Sultana Rahman ’22, political science, criminal justice & Arabic minor and community and civic engagement intern with the Office of Community and Government Relations.

This report detailing University of Scranton voting data in the context of comes from the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), creators of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, or NSLVE. IDHE is located at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life.

Nationwide, the study’s authors report a record-breaking set of findings. On campuses across the country, students built on the momentum swing of 2018 and voted at high rates in the 2020 election, with voter turnout jumping to 66% in last year’s presidential election. The 14 percentage point increase, from 52% turnout in the 2016 election, outpaces that of all Americans, which jumped 6 percentage points from 61% to 67%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“That students, often younger and first-time voters, turned out at rates commensurate with the general public is nothing short of stunning,” said IDHE director Nancy Thomas. “We attribute this high level of participation to many factors, including student activism on issues such as racial injustice, global climate change and voter suppression, as well as increased efforts by educators to reach students and connect them to the issues and to voting resources.”

The 2020 election cycle is one that will be long-remembered for the many political factors surrounding the election and with the unique challenges posed by the onset of the pandemic.

“Despite the many personal challenges that University of Scranton students faced during the 2020 election, I am highly impressed with the level of engagement and civic concern expressed by our students as they participated in the civic process, many for the first time. I am hopeful that this experience will translate into our Royals becoming life-long voters,” said Carolyn M. Bonacci, community and civic engagement coordinator at the University.

One big step to continuing this momentum forward is for everyone to ensure that their voter registration is accurate and up-to-date. This can easily be done at

IDHE’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE, pronounced n-solve) is the nation’s largest study of college and university student voting. Institutions must opt-in to the study, and at this time, nearly 1,200 campuses of all types—community colleges, research universities, minority-serving and women’s colleges, state universities, and private institutions—participate. The dataset reflects all 50 states and the District of Columbia and includes 49 of the nation’s 50 flagship schools. IDHE uses de-identified student records to ensure student privacy. The 2020 dataset is robust with 8,880,700 voting-eligible students representing 1,051 colleges and universities. 

For more information or questions about Royals Vote, please contact

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