The Collegian
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

CCE registered almost 300 students to vote, but national data shows low millennial engagement

<p>A Trump campaign sign sits in the window of a University Forest Apartment.&nbsp;</p>

A Trump campaign sign sits in the window of a University Forest Apartment. 

This year, almost 300 University of Richmond students registered to vote on campus through the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) and the law school. Others registered through volunteers off campus or volunteers who canvassed on campus. 

Although the CCE does not have data from previous election years, about four times more students are registered to vote this year than non-election years. But national and state data indicate millennial voter turnout is down from previous presidential elections. 

Voters aged 18 to 35 are less interested in this presidential election than in the past two, said Daniel Palazzolo, chairman of the Political Science Department. He cited a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found only 54 percent of voters under 35 were highly interested this year. This shows a decline from 2008, when 72 percent were highly interested, and from 2012, when 60 percent were.

Palazzolo stated that young voters favor Hillary Clinton, though not by the same margin that they favored Barack Obama, who had 66 percent of their vote in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012. Currently, Clinton leads Trump by 13 percent in a four-person lineup.

According to NPR, voters ages 18 to 29 only made up 19 percent of total voters in the 2012 election. In total, 46 percent of millennials voted in the past election and in the 2004 election. In 2008, 50 percent of millennials voted.

Virginia contradicts this national data. Both in 2008 and in 2012, young voters here had a higher turnout than the national average. In Virginia, millennials make up about 21 percent of the population, and about a quarter of those under 30 are enrolled in college, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE).

Young voters turn out less for the primaries but their numbers increased or remained the same this year in 17 states, compared to their participation numbers in 2008, CIRCLE reported. However, in Virginia the primary turnout for young voters dropped from 18 percent to 16 percent. About 126,000 young Virginia voters participated in the Democratic primary, while 123,000 participated in the Republican primary.

Caroline McNamara, a junior, is voting in Virginia because it is a swing state. She said that since New Jersey is historically a blue state, she has all the more reason to vote here. This will be her first time voting.

Page Soper, a sophomore, is also voting in Virginia, though she voted in her local election in November of 2014. She felt pressured to register here by the people who came to campus and canvassed.

Kathryn Lynch, a freshman, said she voted in her home state of North Carolina by absentee ballot because she felt it was important to vote in the state gubernatorial race as well as in the national election. She thinks the incumbent is ineffective and unqualified, and she wants to vote him out, she said.

Editor's note: Caroline McNamara is a reporter for The Collegian.

Contact reporter Katherine Schulte at

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