Civic participation has long been a goal of higher education in the U.S.A. Student governments, a variety of other student organizations, and political activity have all contributed to fulfilling this purpose. With the rise of populism and anti-intellectualism in the U.S.A., it's more important than ever for colleges and universities to actively urge students to register and to vote in the upcoming 2020 election. The Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University offered advice on how to encourage college-age students to continue to commit to voting. The rise in the 2018 proportion of college students was encouraging but continuing dedication to bringing them out in an ongoing commitment to promoting democracy is required. As the formal election day of November 3 arrived, educators turned to what must be done to restore civil discourse on campus regardless of the outcome.
Overcoming cynicism is one of the major obstacles in activating the youth vote, however, youth voters numbers were up in 2020 (increasing by at least 5%) and favored Biden by almost a 2:1 margin, with the most glaring exception being white male students. Encouraging faculty to talk about questions related to the 2020 election is particularly important to activity the youth vote. Tufts University's guide for faculty is a helpful resource. The deepest cynicism about higher education is found among citizens who have no experience in higher education, with 59% believing that "colleges and universities have a negative effect on our country's direction." This negative view, coupled with other pronouncements by Trump over the last four years, reinforces why urging students to vote is so important in 2020 and colleges and universities need to help students navigate the obstacles that sometimes discourage their vote.
One of the more difficulty issues to address while encouraging anyone to vote is the impact of demonstrations on voters' opinions. Omar Wasow of Princeton University has encountered considerable opposition for research he conducted on voter activation during the protests of the 1960s. He found that protests resulted in more conservative positions among some voters, a dynamic that is welcomed and being exploited by the Trump campaign of 2020. Richard Nixon won the 1968 election and the Brookings Institution advises that he won by following the same strategy Trump is presently using - painting demonstrations and protest as unAmerican behavior that requires a law and order response. The problem with Wasow's warning is that many believe that a polite response to police brutality is inexcusable; I say it can't be either/or but that an opposing strategy has to support legitimate protest AND push for voter activism to match any increase that may result from Trump's manipulation.