Fostering Democratic Participation at Community Colleges: Understanding the Relationship Between Voting and Student, Institutional, and Environmental Factors

Jon McNaughtan, Michael Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study is to understand the relationship between organizational characteristics, state political climate, and student civic engagement at community colleges, operationalized in this article as student voting. Method: Utilizing a unique cross-sectional dataset compiled by the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education for the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections that merges student voting data, enrollment records from the National Student Clearinghouse, and institutional data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we employed multi-level binary logistic regression to account for individual and organizational influences. Results: The relationship between voting and student characteristics aligns with national voting trends, in that students who are female, older, and White had higher odds of voting. However, there was one notable exception in 2012 where Black students had higher odds of voting than their White peers. We also found that students enrolled full-time and those enrolled at colleges in electoral battleground states were more likely to vote in 2012 and 2016. Weak or mixed relationships emerged between voting and environmental factors such as campaign spending, ballot initiatives, get-out-the-vote programs, restrictive voter laws, and compositional diversity of the student body. Conclusion: This study provides insight for community college leaders on potential ways to engage students in an effort to promote voter turnout in a presidential election year on their campuses. Specifically, we posit that institutions could highlight the salience of public policy issues for students, lobby for less restrictive voting laws, and implement evaluation programs of their civic engagement initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355-375
Number of pages21
JournalCommunity College Review
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Keywords

  • civic engagement
  • community college
  • multi-level regression
  • presidential election
  • student voting

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