As recently as last fall, analysts confidently forecasted similarly record-breaking levels of participation in the 2020 presidential election. Fast forward 12 months and, needless to say, things have changed. The pandemic is impacting every part of the student experience, and civic participation is no different.

Below we explore four such barriers that have taken on heightened resonance this year, along with concrete ways schools can help students overcome them:

1. Uncertainty about the process of voting

Over 90% of students reported that they intend to vote this fall, but if they have not considered how in-person options have changed in their states over the past few months they could confront unanticipated obstacles.

2. Indecision about where to register and vote

Over half of the students we surveyed intended to register and vote using their campus address, but they may be unsure how to plan for sudden changes in their living arrangements between now and November 3 as a result of unanticipated COVID-19 spikes.

3. Low visibility of participation

We know that social norms, or the perceived behavior of others, exert a powerful influence on whether or not students vote, and in an election where more people plan to vote by mail than ever before, there will be even fewer visible signals of student participation, such as the popular “I voted” stickers.

4. Psychological distance between voting and everyday life

Our survey revealed that while many students do view voting as an impactful way to drive change in their communities, a sizable minority see donating money to causes (such as mutual aid funds or community based organizing) or protesting as more important.

Nurturing strong habits of civic engagement among students is an obligation that schools can’t push to the back burner, even as they deal with unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Read the full article about student voter participation at ideas42.