Survey Results

Vote Motivation and Messaging College Student Survey Findings

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



College Students 

Sample Size

Total N = 1000


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.


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?

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.

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.

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?

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]


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.

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

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

Chart shows/ranked by Total Audience, % “Very Convincing”

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?


“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.”
% 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 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.”
% Percent “Very Convincing”

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.


Strategic Guidance

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

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.

2. About half of students believe their peers don’t vote due to complicated processes and logistical barriers.
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.
3. Just under a third of first-year studens feel their vote holds no power.
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
4. Just over a quarter of Black students feel their vote holds no power.
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.
5. Students feel disconnected from their elected leaders and candidate options.
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.