In a recent study coming out of Tufts University, schools across the nation nearly doubled their voting turnout among students between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. And on Sep. 19, GC found out they were no exception.
The data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed spikes among all demographics, but none quite as drastic as that of college students. “It’s really a stunning comparison between college students and the rest of the United States populations,” Nancy Thomas, director of Tufts Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, was quoted saying in an article published by The Washington Post on Sep. 19.
As for Goshen College, they saw their voter rate almost triple in 2018 as 42% of students showed up to the polls compared to just 15% in 2014. More GC students were also registered to vote as their registration rate increased from 72% to 80.
When held up side-by-side to national data, GC had a 2% higher voting rate than the national average and a 7% edge in registration rate.
“The results are very encouraging and reflect the increased activism and interest in politics that I’ve experienced and observed at Goshen College,” Richard Aguirre, community impact coordinator, said.
The changing point in all of this?
Justin Heinzekher, director of institutional research and assessment, believes it came in the time between the midterm results.
“I think the 2016 election motivated a lot of voters,” he said.
In subsequent surveys coming out of Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, voters under the age of 24 were shown to lean left in 2018 as they favored the Democratic House candidates by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
Aguirre says the issues supported by Democrat candidates, including climate change policy, could be consistent with the growing voting rate at GC as well.
“GC student groups have advocated before state and local officials to advance causes that are important to them,” he said. “Affirming that there is increased interest in politics and government among GC students.”
And students like senior Gabe Miller, member of EcoPax club on campus, reaffirm this growing interest in social policy regarding climate change.
“Voting is the foundation of democracy,” Miller said. “We all have things we want. Voting moves us closer to the world we want to live in and that’s special.”
As for the impact GC students could have, Aguirre believes the passion could reach even further.
“I believe GC students could play a pivotal role in deciding some of the Goshen City Council races,” Aguirre said. “And this could set the stage for even greater GC student participation in the 2020 Indiana Primary Election and the presidential election on Nov. 3, 2020.”
With the Nov. 5 Goshen municipal election coming up, Aguirre is continuing to raise students interest in political participation.
Whether it’s been distributing voter registration forms, coordinating a campus voter registration drive or gathering names of students interested in engaging in advocacy around climate change and immigration, Aguirre is dedicated to making GC students heard.
“GC students have made Goshen their home, and I’m encouraging them to understand that they can help shape the future of Goshen by who they elect to the city council.”
And Aguirre is hopeful to see this trend continue in the coming years.
“I believe students increasingly understand that there are negative consequences for not voting and not being involved, so they are more willing to engage with the electoral and political processes,” he said.