Midterm voter turnout amongst undergraduate students more than doubles from 2014 to 2018

Ellie Ito | Contributing Reporter

The 2018 midterm elections marked a considerable increase in voter participation amongst Washington University students–in comparison to 15.9% turnout in 2014, the recent midterms brought 41.8% of University students to the booths.

Voices around campus offered insight regarding the catalyst behind this boost in political engagement.

“There’s a lot of efforts to increase voter turnout,” junior Vinay Chandrasekaran said. “There’s the Gephardt Institute, but I think the culture of college definitely plays a role. If all your friends are registered and you’re not, maybe they’ll yell at you.”

This spike in voter turnout was not unique to Washington University. On a national level, students on college campuses rushed to the booths, raising the national campus average to 39.1%.

“Donald Trump was a very polarizing figure,” freshman Henry Sosland said. “I think there was a lot of complacency because people thought Trump wouldn’t win, but he did. So people actually came to vote because they wanted to make a difference. And it worked because [Democrats] won the House.”

In conjunction with the University environment and the current political climate, the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement informs students of election process details and creates an atmosphere of excitement surrounding elections to achieve high voter turnout.

“There’s definitely a culture of trying to get young people politically engaged in college,” said freshman Nya Fifer. “Also the majority of campus is liberal and that kind of links to the current political climate.”

Looking forward to the 2020 election, University faculty hope that this trend of student activism will continue.

“Students in previous years seemed to care as much as anyone now, or at least they were just as upset. Just as hopeful. I think what has really changed is an increasing awareness of privilege,” College Writing 1 instructor Colin Bassett wrote in a statement to Student Life. “Students are more conversant when it comes to privileges associated with race, class and gender. That makes it harder to stand by and watch. Whether you’re angry or hopeful, if you start realizing [that] you’re part of the problem, then you have to start trying to do something about it.”

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