Survey Results

Vote Motivation and Messaging College Student Survey Findings

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In an age of hyperpartisanship, judicial rollbacks of long-established civil and voting rights, and another redistricting cycle dominated by gerrymandering headlines, this survey shows us that college students, rightfully, are skeptical of the impact their individual vote can have. However, the survey is a roadmap for Campus Vote Project, our student Democracy Fellows, and college and university faculty and staff across the country to help students see through on their desire to vote and have their voices heard on the issues they are passionate about by providing them with the information they need about the election process, including who is on the ballot, and specific examples of the impact their collective turnout has already had in recent elections.

 

Following this roadmap is crucial as research shows that our democracy’s youngest voters have the ability to play a significant role in the outcome of these elections – if they are registered.

 

Key Findings

Our survey yielded six key findings: 

1)

Students are motivated to vote, but lack belief that their vote matters. 

Students want their voice to be heard, and the majority know the importance of youth turnout. Nearly three quarters of students say they are motivated to vote. But when asked if their vote had the power to make change, only about half of students thought so. It is this lack of faith that their vote matters, students say, that stops some from casting a ballot entirely.

2)

Students want more interaction with their elected officials.

Young people are angry with the decisions elected officials are making, but are hopeful that change can be made. Still, nearly a third of students say that a major factor in not voting is disliking the candidates they see on the ballot. More than half of students want to hear more about the candidates they are voting on, either by directly interacting with candidates at a “Town Hall” event, or through neutral pamphlets or digital graphics comparing candidate platforms and ballot initiatives.

3)

Students want more logistical information on the voting process.

Although nearly 60% of students say voting is easy, more than a quarter say lack of information on voting processes (Including elections dates, poll locations, and what to bring to the polls) is the biggest obstacle to voting. Students say they want more opportunities to learn about voting in class and through their student affairs office, and the ability to talk to students, faculty, and staff about nonpartisan voting issues.

4)

Students want voting to be convenient.

College students are busy. Many feel that voting takes up too much time, or that their polling location is too far away for them to travel to. Students say the most helpful resources for them are those that bring voting closer to campus, like ballot drop-off boxes or on-campus voting sites. More than a third of students surveyed believe that professors could avoid scheduling assignments and exams on Election Day to remove some of the barriers student voters face.

5)

Collective power and recent issues are top motivators for voting.

The actions of officials on a variety of hot button issues motivate students to vote. Showing specific examples of the collective power of young people, like messaging on "sway elections" and "young voters" is also a major motivating factor.

6)

Messaging: Use empowering language and focus on impact.

Emphasizing the power young people have to make a difference would convince them to vote in an upcoming election. Similarly, focusing on the impact elected officials have on their futures was highly appealing.

Methodology:

Universe

College Students 

Sample Size

Total N = 1000

Methodology

These findings are from a proprietary survey conducted by HIT Strategies on behalf of Fair Elections Center. This survey consisted of 1,000 college students nationally. The survey was conducted online and fielded from August 6 to August 11, 2022. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% (total). This survey was informed by 4 focus groups of White, Black, Latinx, and Community College students hosted July 11-12, 2022.

 

Demographics

Gender
Race

Other

4%

Demographics Gender.png

Female

53%

Male

43%

Other

2%

Demographics Race

Black

16%

AAPI

8%

Hispanic/Latino

21%

White

53%

Political Party
Degree Type
Generation

Other

2%

Demographics Generation.png

Gen Z (18-25)

88%

Millennial (26-39)

10%

School Year
Demographics Party.png

Republican

24%

Democrat

59%

Independent

17%

Associate (2yr)

29%

Demographics Degree Type.png

Bachelor's (4yr)

71%

Junior

22%

Demographics Year.png

Freshman

28%

Sophomore

29%

Senior

21%

In-State/Out-of State

In-State

80%

Demographics in state out of state.png

Out-of-State

19%

Other

1%

University Type

Other

1%

Community

College

30%

University Type.png

Private College

20%

Public State University

48%

 

Voting Obstacles & Resources

Students largely express an intent to vote and understand the importance of voting, but worry their individual vote will not make an impact. Students by and large welcome resources that bring voting closer to campus. Students feel they lack proper information on how and when to vote, and want more opportunities to interact candidates on campus.

Most students think voting is relatively easy, but they are divided as to whether some students choose not to vote, or run into logistical obstacles that prevent them from voting.

How easy or difficult do you think it is for college students like you to vote?

Easy v difficult .png

Pretty difficult

13%

Very easy

17%

Neither easy or difficult

27%

Pretty Easy

42%

Total Easy: 59%

Please select which of the following statements comes closer to your opinion, even if neither is exactly right, then tell us how strongly you agree with the statement you chose.

Statement B: When people on my college campus don’t vote, it’s because they choose not to- they don’t want to participate in the system or don’t care about elections/government.

Statement A: When people on my college campus don’t vote, it’s because it’s too complicated- logistics like registration deadlines, long lines, or confusing wording on ballots get in the way.

HIT Students think voting is easy.png

Statement B: Somewhat agree

21%

Statement A: Somewhat Agree

28%

Statement A: Strongly Agree

19%

Statement B: Strongly Agree

32%

Statement B Total: 

53%

Statement A Total: 

47%

Students plan to vote either in person on election day, or by mail/absentee ballot. 

If you plan to vote, how do you plan to do so? 

The most helpful resources would bring the voting process closer to campus, and disperse information through student affairs by text or email. 

Which of the following resources provided on your campus would be most helpful to overcome obstacles to voting? Select the top three most helpful. 

When it comes to logistical information, students need to know what to bring, location of voting sites, and election dates/hours. Out-of-State and unregistered students need information specific to them. 

When it comes to logistical information on the process of voting, which do you feel you and other college students need most? Select all that apply.

The top obstacles to voting relate to lack of faith that voting can make change, ahead of logistical barriers. 

Which of the following obstacles are most likely to prevent college students like you from voting? Select the two obstacles that are most likely to get in the way of voting.

25%

17%

HIT1 Where Students Vote.jpg

Chart shows % of total audience

Community

College

Public

Private

Out of State

In person on election day

By mail or absentee ballot

In person early

Drop off ballot

Not sure

I do not plan to vote

35%

42%

36%

29%

22%

25%

31%

38%

19%

16%

15%

12%

11%

8%

7%

6%

8%

5%

7%

5%

5%

5%

4%

9%

38%

25%

17%

8%

6%

5%

HIT1 Most Helpful Resources.jpg

Chart shows % of total audience

Community

College

Public

Private

Ballot drop-off boxes or voting sites on campus

Student affairs offering voting information campus-wide on school’s website, at orientation, by email and/or text...

Professors avoiding big exams and

assignments on election day

Event in person or online where local candidates share their platforms with students and take questions

Pamphlets or digital graphics with neutral side-by-side comparison of candidate platforms, and ballot language...

Opportunities to learn about voting in class

Ability to talk to a nonpartisan organization on-campus made up of students, staff, and faculty for election...

Transportation like shuttles to get to the voting site

Professors including election dates and

registration deadlines in syllabus

Ability to talk to partisan student groups

and campaigns on-campus

49%

38%

34%

32%

31%

27%

27%

26%

21%

15%

45%

49%

57%

40%

37%

38%

30%

34%

39%

34%

32%

28%

32%

31%

34%

29%

25%

27%

30%

26%

22%

22%

29%

27%

21%

21%

21%

16%

16%

12%

Hit1 Logistal Needs.jpg

Chart shows % of total audience

Community

College

Public

Private

Out of State

Un-registered

What to bring (i.e. voter ID)

Location of voting sites

Election day date and hours

Registration process and deadline dates

Ballot destination: where to drop it off, address to mail it

When to mail or drop off ballot so it arrives on time

How to use voting machines

How to request ballot

Absentee ballots for out of state students

Don't know/Ref

50%

49%

45%

44%

40%

39%

34%

34%

29%

2%

49%

52%

48%

40%

45%

45%

52%

50%

31%

41%

52%

40%

51%

36%

51%

45%

43%

44%

40%

47%

45%

39%

35%

48%

38%

39%

39%

43%

44%

38%

38%

31%

36%

21%

34%

29%

36%

38%

46%

34%

26%

28%

39%

51%

24%

1%

2%

2%

4%

2%

HIT1 Top Obstacles.jpg

Chart shows % of total audience

Community

College

Public

Private

Belief that voting doesn’t change anything

Lack of interest in elections/government

Disliking the candidate options 

Lack of information on voting process (poll locations, registration deadlines, etc.)

Lack of information on voting process (poll locations, registration deadlines, etc.)

Lack of time to spend waiting in line or filling out mail-in ballot

Inconvenience of poll location and lack of transportation

41%

35%

29%

28%

26%

21%

20%

42%

40%

27%

27%

25%

22%

18%

39%

32%

31%

31%

26%

21%

22%

34%

45%

27%

22%

27%

23%

22%

College students are less satisfied with National government leaders than local and state elected officials.

How satisfied do you feel with the response of the following elected officials to the issues you find important?

Local Government

(i.e. mayor, district attorney, school board, sheriff, city council)

State Government

(i.e. governor, secretary of state, state senate and house)

National/Federal Government

(i.e. president, senators, congress)

HIT1 Satisfaction w Officials.jpg

42%

29%

13%

22%

14%

8%

36%

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

Indifferent

Com. Coll.

Public

Private

38%

43%

46%

Total Satisfied

Total Dissatisfied

Indifferent

20%

24%

20%

42%

32%

34%

Com. Coll.

Public

Private

Com. Coll.

Public

Private

Total Satisfied

Total Dissatisfied

Indifferent

Total Satisfied

Total Dissatisfied

Indifferent

41%

38%

40%

25%

37%

32%

34%

26%

27%

32%

26%

26%

40%

53%

51%

28%

21%

23%

40%

29%

11%

32%

18%

14%

29%

28%

48%

23%

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

Indifferent

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

Indifferent

18%

10%

23%

25%

Events with local candidates are popular, as well as a class period dedicated to voting information.

Which of the following would you be more likely to attend or participate in? Select all that apply. [SSB]

Event in person on campus where local candidates can share their platforms with students and take questions

Class period within a course you’re currently taking, dedicated to answering questions about voting

Event on Zoom or Instagram live where local candidates can share their platforms

with students and take questions

Online forum or dashboard to send questions about voting answered by a committee of other students, read responses to other students’ questions

Student march to voting site, rally to encourage registration and voting as a group

Tabling and events with a nonpartisan organization on-campus made up of students, staff, and faculty for election information

None of the above

Community

College

Public

Private

HIT1 Events and Classroom.jpg

43%

40%

38%

35%

21%

21%

9%

41%

46%

39%

41%

38%

48%

45%

37%

33%

40%

31%

37%

26%

17%

21%

20%

23%

19%

6%

9%

10%

Messaging

Students largely express an intent to vote and understand the importance of voting, but worry their individual vote will not make an impact. Students responded well to messages that reframe voting from a one-time individual action to a collective action undertaken multiple times, especially when stating recent specific impacts.

 
The most important issues to students right now are inflation, abortion access, and gun prevention.

How important are each of the following issues facing the country today? Please select the top three most important issues.

HIT1 Top Issues.jpg

Cost of Living/Inflation

Abortion Access

Gun Violence Prevention

Climate Change

Economy/Jobs

Affordable, Equitable Access to Healthcare

Student Loan Debt

Systemic Racism and Discrimination

Housing Crisis

Police Reform

44%

43%

43%

31%

30%

28%

27%

27%

15%

12%

Over 40% of students found all messages "Very Convincing."
HIT1 Convincing Messaging.jpg

How persuasive are the following statements in convincing you to vote in the 2022 midterm elections?

Chart shows/ranked by Total Audience, % "Very Convincing"

44%

44%

42%

41%

"POWER"

"FUTURE"

"YOUNG VOTERS"

"YOU DID IT IN 2020 YOU CAN DO IT IN 2022"

College students found messaging that used empowering language and focused on impact most compelling.

How persuasive are the following statements in convincing you to vote in the 2022 midterm elections?

"POWER"

"FUTURE"

"Millennials and Gen-Z are the most diverse generations in US history. Now that we collectively make up the largest eligible voting population, we have the power to make the rest of the country respond to the needs of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Immigrant, and other marginalized communities. Our communities have gone long enough without seeing ourselves reflected in our elected officials and in their decisions. It's time we take back our power and put people in office who represent us."

"The decisions elected officials make today will impact our generation the most, so why are we okay with the fact that older generations, who turn out in greater numbers, have a greater say than we do in who is elected? It’s time for us to take charge of our future and hold elected officials accountable who have been making choices only in their own best interest accountable."

HIT1 POWER_FUTURE.jpg

Total

Comm. College

Public

Private

Freshmen

Black

Total

Comm. College

Public

Private

Freshmen

Black

44%

43%

47%

42%

40%

49%

44%

41%

46%

44%

40%

43%

% Percent "Very Convincing"

Students also moved by messages that combined proof points with calls to action. 

How persuasive are the following statements in convincing you to vote in the 2022 midterm elections?

"YOUNG VOTERS"

"YOU DID IT IN 2020 YOU CAN DO IT IN 2022"

"Young voters have the power to make real change on important issues like police accountability and criminal justice. We've already seen it in action: In 2018, young voters in Chicago were fed up with unchecked police brutality and came together to elect candidates who created a police oversight board to hold police accountable. Want to see that happen? Use your vote this election to demand action because being part of 37% of the electorate means that we hold the greatest power to hold elected officials accountable."

"Our vote as young people has the power to change the outcome of this election. Want proof? In 2020 there was an 11-percentage point increase in turnout among young voters. The result? The young and most diverse Congress in US history. This November, let's turn out in record numbers again to make sure that our elected leaders represent us and will put our values into action in DC and in our communities."

HIT1 Young_You Did It.jpg

42%

40%

44%

40%

40%

50%

41%

40%

42%

43%

38%

49%

Total

Comm. College

Public

Private

Freshmen

Black

% Percent "Very Convincing"

Total

Comm. College

Public

Private

Freshmen

Black

Students get their information from social media posts, as well as parents and family. Providing tools for parents to communicate information about voting with their kids may be an effective way to reach students. 

What sources do you use to find information? Select all that apply.

HIT1 STudent News Sources.jpg

Social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.

Parents /Family

Broadcast news (ABS, CNN, NBC, FOX)

Social media influencers on Instagram, TikTok, etc.

TV (Discovery Channel, PBS, History Channel)

Class mates /Friends

Informational videos on YouTube

Posts on organizations websites

Newspaper (digital or print)

Professors/ Faculty

Refused

Other (specify)

51%

49%

48%

43%

35%

32%

32%

27%

27%

22%

2%

2%

Barriers

1)

Nearly a third of students believe their vote has no power to impact change.

2)

About half of students believe their peers don't vote due to complicated processes and logistical barriers.

3)

Just under a third of first-year studens feel their vote holds no power.

4)

Just over a quarter of Black students feel their vote holds no power.

5)

Students feel disconnected from their elected leaders and candidate options.

Strategic Guidance

Messaging about student voting should include concrete examples of times when young people made a difference and influenced outcomes.

Ex. "In 2020, young-voter turnout increased by 11-points, resulting in the youngest and most diverse Congress in U.S. history.

Make voting as easy as possible for all students. Encourage students to make individual voting plans, including information on what to bring, where, when, and how to vote. Provide information on absentee ballots and when/where to mail their ballot, especially for out-of-state students. Work with professors to provide this information in class, and coordinate online information campaigns with student affairs via texts and emails. If possible, bring ballot drop-off boxes and voting sites to campus.

Disperse information and resources outlined in Strategic Guidance 2 in required courses for first-year students and at orientation. Messaging should highlight Mental Health and Climate positive action issues, youth power in Sway Elections, and the impact of elections on their future, all of which rated highest among Freshmen.

Work with Black Student Unions and HBCUs to disperse information and resources outlined in Strategic Guidance 2. Messaging should highlight Mental Health and College Affordability positive action issues, youth power in GA example, and young voters combating police brutality, which were rated highest among Black students.

Work with student organizations to bring local candidates to campus or host an event online, so students can directly ask questions about candidate platforms and actions. Provide students with nonpartisan information about candidates and ballot initiatives to encourage making informed decisions about who and what to vote for.