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NEO, NDVotes release survey results gauging students’ political awareness

| Thursday, February 4, 2016

In the second week of November, Notre Dame students will join the millions of college students across the country casting their ballots for the next president of the United States. In a recent survey, three-quarters of Notre Dame student respondents said they would definitely vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The survey, administered by the National Engagement and Outreach (NEO) department of student government and NDVotes’16, aimed to gauge Notre Dame students’ political knowledge and awareness.

Sophomore Taylor Still, a member of NEO, said the purpose of the survey was to determine the level of interest Notre Dame students have in national policy and civic engagement.

“There’s this idea that millennials are not engaged or not informed,” she said. “I wanted to challenge that on a very small scale.”

The short survey was administered to 100 students at random in LaFortune Student Center. Still said NEO hoped to capture a sample that was somewhat similar to the demographic of the Notre Dame student-body population.

Of the 100 students surveyed, 95 listed Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. Contrastingly, only 28 percent of respondents could name four or more U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Still said.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of political knowledge that we found on campus,” she said. “Students are definitely thinking about these political issues, and not just in strictly black-and-white interpretations.”

Sophomore Sarah Tomas Morgan, co-chair of NDVotes’16, said NEO approached the nonpartisan campaign back in November to ask for help promoting the survey within the Notre Dame community.

“NEO approached us because they knew that we had a similar mission to what they were trying to accomplish with this survey,” Tomas Morgan said. “As I’ve gotten more involved in the political scene on campus, I think there is a lot of interest. Sometimes students just don’t know where to find the resources to start educating their vote or to begin having those conversations.”

NDVotes’16 is a revised version of a student-led initiative created for the 2004, 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, said Rosie McDowell, one of the campaign’s faculty overseers. The task force, which consists of representatives from a variety of campus political and special interest groups, is supported by the Center for Social Concerns and the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy.

McDowell said NDVotes hopes to help the campus community take advantage of its new partnership with TurboVote, an online service that will allow Notre Dame students and faculty to register to vote and request absentee ballots free of charge.

“The other piece of this is voter education — getting students to be aware of various issues and helping them understand that getting involved in the community and acting civically is just as important as voting,” she said.

“Pizza, Pop and Politics,” a series of events hosted by NDVotes throughout the semester, is designed to stimulate quality discussions among students with a wide variety of political viewpoints, McDowell said.

“An engaged campus is what we’re hoping for,” she said. “Often, the discussions get really polarized really quickly. … It’s okay to disagree, as long as we can agree that each other might have valid points.”

Tomas Morgan said she hopes Notre Dame students create conversations about relevant political issues, encouraging them to make an informed contribution to the young adult vote.

“I think they have the willingness to make voting and political engagement a part of their lives,” she said. “But there’s just not always the right impetus to get it going. I think there’s definitely promise, but I also think there’s more that we can do this season to get people more invested.”

Still said the survey’s results are still being analyzed, although NEO would have to repeat or extend the survey to get a larger sample if it wanted more credible results. Neither NEO nor NDVotes has any plans to further the survey or directly respond to its results at this point in time.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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