Honors College
 

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Major

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Robert Glover

Committee Members

Mark Brewer, Jennifer Desmond, Kyle Jackson, Richard Powell

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Spring 5-2021

Abstract

Thomas et al. (2016) estimates that around 10 million currently enrolled college students did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. Unfortunately, this statistic is representative of a national downward trend in youth voter turnout rates where those in the youngest (and largest) voter age bracket are turning out at the lowest rate compared to any other bracket. Previous research on this phenomenon has focused on procedural and institutional barriers like registration, residency requirements, and voter ID laws to describe what physically stands between a prospective young voter and the ballot box. This research looks to study that issue from the perspective of attitudinal barriers as they play out among University of Maine (UMaine) students to produce data which will be both directly helpful to our community but also the larger body of research by answering this question: how does a student's sense of political efficacy and their perceptions of the campus political climate impact their likelihood of voting? We use original data from our survey, a multivariate model, and focus groups to develop quantitative and qualitative findings which identify the most salient motivators and determinants of likelihood to vote among UMaine students. Of all the factors we measured, the perceived campus political environment was the greatest area of concern for our students across the political spectrum. This suggests that if the university seeks to increase its student turnout rates, it needs to invest time and resources into shifting the narrative surrounding politics and political discourse on campus.

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