Voter turnout among college students jumped to a record high of 66 percent in the 2020 presidential election, according to a new report from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education.
That was 14 percent higher than college student turnout in the 2016 election, the report found, and just a shade lower than the national rate of 67 percent for all voters in 2020, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau. The student "yield" rate -- the rate at which students who registered to vote actually cast their ballots -- hit 80 percent, which the report called "an important milestone and signal that they are vested in their own futures and the health of democracy." In 2016, the yield rate was 60 percent. Other data found that younger students outvoted older ones, with those aged 18 to 21 voting at higher rates than the 30-and-over crowd.
The report, which analyzed voting records from nearly 1,200 campuses, noted that students were motivated to vote; 97 percent of campuses in the study saw an increase in turnout in 2020. And while turnout grew across all types of institutions, it was highest at private institutions; student voting rates at private bachelor’s degree-granting institutions reached 75 percent in 2020, an increase of 17 percentage points over 2016. Students at women’s colleges voted at a rate of 76 percent.
Looking at demographics, the report found that Asian American students showed the biggest gain in participation, voting at a rate 17 percentage points higher than in 2016. However, Asian American students also had the lowest overall turnout compared to other ethnic groups, at 51 percent. Hispanic students followed, with a turnout rate of 60 percent, Black students with a 63 percent rate and multiracial students with a 66 percent rate. White students had the highest rate at 71 percent, with white women achieving the highest voting rate when broken down by race and sex, at 73 percent.