The NSLVE data is in: Massachusetts students voted at higher rates than the general population in 2020

The 2020 National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) is finally here! I’m proud to report that not only did the student voting rate increase dramatically over 2016, but in fact students turned out at a higher rate than the general population at 66% for the first time since NSLVE data has been released

The Student PIRGs worked at more than 150 campuses across the country in 2020. At the 62 campuses where we have NSLVE data, student voter turnout in 2020 averaged 71%, well above the national average for the general population.

In Massachusetts, we have NSLVE data for nine campuses where PIRG did work in 2020. In total these campuses enroll more than 93,000 students:

2016 Turnout2020 Turnout% point change
Salem State63.9%68.1%4.2%
University of Massachusetts – Boston60.5%64.1%3.6%
University of Massachusetts -Dartmouth50.7%64.9%14.2%
Brandeis University57.3%70.5%13.3%
Berkshire Community College54.8%55.3%0.5%
Middlesex Community College49.7%55.6%5.9%
Mount Holyoke College70.5%84.7%14.2%
University of Massachusetts – Amherst54.4%74.7%20.3%
University of Massachusetts – Lowell57.8%66.5%8.7%
All Schools56.6%68.5%11.8%

2020 was a once in a generation election with incredible turnout rates across age ranges and demographics. Our goal in 2020 was to make sure that student voting rates matched their enthusiasm. Thanks to the generous support of donors and foundations, we were able to hire staff to expand our work and make more than 63,500 peer-to-peer GOTV contacts and reach just under 300,000 students on these 9 campuses leading up to the election.

  • The average voter registration rate on these campuses climbed from 79% in 2016 to 83% in 2020 (vs. 66% of the general population), 
  • The turnout rate of registered voters increased from 71% in 2016 to 81% in 2020 (vs. 77% of the general population),
  • and the overall turnout rate was 68% of students versus 56% in 2016 (vs. 50% of the general population)

We’re especially impressed with the voter registration rates at Mount Holyoke College and Salem State University which reached 91.9% and 92.4% respectively, and the turnout rate of registered students at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst which reached an impressive 74.7%.

Coming out of the election, we knew that we couldn’t lose the momentum we built in 2020. We’ve spent the last year working with the team we built on issues that matter to students like higher education affordability, climate change, and more. So far this year, more than 300 students across Massachusetts have volunteered with MASSPIRG on one of our campaigns. They’ve collected more than 1,300 food and clothing items for local groups and shelters during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, signed on more than 150 faculty in support of using open textbooks, and generated thousands of petition signatures from students demanding action on climate change.

We know that 2022 will be a challenging election year, but our team is ready to mobilize students across the state to register to vote and cast their ballots.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the 2020 NSLVE data. ICYMI, you can check out our panel on how campuses can use their NSLVE data to improve their voter engagement work featuring our friends from the ALL IN Challenge and the Tufts Institute of Democracy in Higher Education here.