Data Visualization: A Methodical and Ideological Analysis of Student Voters

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At least 1,428 students at UCSD turned out to vote in the 2016 general election on Tuesday, a figure that is increasing as mail and provisional ballots continue to be counted. Data shows that student voter trends, like voting method and turnout rates, mimic that of San Diego and California residents, except in the case of candidate preference.

The similarities in both the high participation in the 2012 general election and the low participation in the 2012 primaries are evidence of how voter turnout in the regions of UCSD, San Diego and California are alike.

At first glance, it seems UCSD is voting at higher rates than San Diego and California residents as a whole. For instance, in the 2016 primary election, UCSD had a voter turnout of 60.98 percent while San Diego and California residents turned out at 50.94 percent and 47.72 percent respectively.

However, these turnout rates are based on the number of people who voted at each polling location over the number of people who were registered at that location. The numbers are not based on overall eligible voters, just those registered at that location based on their address.

University students are less likely to be registered because they’ve only recently gained voting eligibility, but those who are registered are more likely to be highly motivated political participants, leading to a high registered voter turnout rate. So, it’s inaccurate to generalize and say that UCSD students are turning out more than San Diego and California residents overall.

Not much can be said at this time about the turnout rate of UCSD students in the 2016 general election because approximately 500,000 mail and provisional votes in San Diego County have yet to be counted. For this reason, early calculations for the 2016 general election voter turnout for UCSD students, 48.48 percent, are lower than those of the final turnout in the 2016 primary election, 60.98 percent.

What can be said is that students showed up to the polls in greater numbers than in the past: 1569 students showed up to the polls in the 2016 general election, trumping the 1137 who came to the polls in the primary.

The 2016 primary was during finals week, which led the Student Organized Voter Access Committee, or SOVAC, to recommend that students vote by mail in order to avoid lines on the day of the election. Despite this, UCSD students voted much like San Diego residents, voting at the polls and by mail at the same rates.

While there are similarities in terms of the way students and San Diego residents vote, differences emerge when considering each blocs’ preferred candidate. The San Diego vote is representative of California as a whole. For instance, in the 2016 primary election, 51.6 percent of San Diego residents who are registered Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton while 53.1 percent of Democratic California residents did. Likewise, Republican-registered San Diego and California residents voted for Donald Trump at 77.6 percent and 74.8 percent respectively.

In contrast, UCSD students voted at dramatically higher rates for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Primary. The 2016 Republican Primary is a similar story, when UCSD students didn’t mirror San Diego and California residents’ favorability for Donald Trump. Notably, in the primary, only 19 students out of 200 registered Republican voters at UCSD voted for Donald Trump.