• Shayna Cohen

Student Government Participation Voter Trends

Summary Statistics

Between 2011 and 2022, an average of 16% of the student body each year voted in Student Government elections.

The greatest number of students to participate in an election for Student Body Vice President/President was 9,153 in 2016, which was just under 23% of the total student population at that time.

Of the last 12 election cycles, three of the winning Student Body President/Vice President candidates won with 51%-52% of the total votes.


Background

Every fall and spring semester, students are provided the opportunity to participate in Student Government elections. In fall semesters, students can vote for Senators, Campus Recreation Board members, and Congress of Graduate Students representatives. Every spring semester, students can vote for Student Senators, Union Board members, Congress of Graduate Students representatives, Senior Class Council, Student Body Treasurer, and Student Body Vice President/President.

Please see Torchlight’s most recent fall and spring voter guides for further details.

With assistance and collaboration from Florida State University’s Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Institutional Resource, Torchlight has analyzed election data on voter trends from beginning in Fall 2011 and ending with this most recent election in Spring 2022. Below, we have summarized key rates of voter turnout, primarily focusing on student votes for Student Body Vice President/President. Torchlight believes that the voter participation rates for Student Body President/Vice President will provide the most accurate average student voter participation values because all students are eligible to vote for these two positions and spring elections have higher voter turnouts. For further questions on methodology and data, please contact the Torchlight Policy Center.

Average Student Voting Participation

Between 2011 and 2022, an average of 16% of the student body each year voted in Student Government elections. The largest year of student participation was in 2016, with just under 23% of all enrolled students voting. The lowest was in 2018 at just under 10%. In every year except for 2014, there were only two choices for Student Body President/Vice President available for students to select on the final ballot. In 2014, the eventual Student Body President/Vice President ran unopposed, resulting in the candidates holding the positions by default.



Note: The values in both graphs were calculated by using student enrollment numbers housed by the Office of Institutional Research and student voter turnout obtained from voting records. For the 2022 spring election participation rate, the spring semester enrollment numbers were not yet available. Therefore, the fall 2021 spring enrollment numbers were used. We believe this could result in a negligible underestimation of overall student participation estimates, based on previous years’ data. As there was no election in 2014, due to only one set of candidates running, there are no results for that year.

In terms of magnitude, the greatest number of students to ever participate in a Student Government was in 2016, with 9,153 students participating. While many elections have been won by a large margin, three elections in the last 12 years were decided by a very tight margin of votes. The Student Body President/Vice President won the election by 179 votes in 2015, 258 votes in 2019, and 241 votes in 2021. All three years, the candidates won the positions with 51%-52% of all votes cast.

Disclaimer:

This piece would not have been possible without the data publicly available and maintained by Florida State University’s Office of Institutional Resource and data collection assistance from staff at the Office of Student Affairs. Contributions from Marion Harper, Shayna Cohen, Yolanda St. Fleur, Parker Ridaught, and Brenna Miller were also necessary for the completion of this article.

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