Houston Center Study Finds Which College Majors are Most Likely to vote

October 20, 2008

CLEMSON, SC — October 20, 2008 – Candidates who make college campuses part of the campaign trail may as well stay away from the math and physical science departments. The voters are elsewhere, according to a study by Lamont A. Flowers, executive director of Clemson University’s Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education.

Flowers, Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership, focused his study on which African-American students, by major, were likely to register and vote.

While math and physical science majors were the least likely to vote among African-American students, business and management majors were the most likely to take part in the election process. Almost 20 percent — 19.5 — of the business and management students were registered to vote and 20.5 percent have voted. Among math majors, 0.3 percent were registered to vote and 0.2 percent have voted, while among physical science majors only 0.3 percent were registered and 0.3 percent have voted.

Details of the report are available at the Houston Center’s Web site.

The numbers for all students were similar, with undeclared majors being more likely to vote (21 percent were registered), followed by students majoring in business and management (16 percent registered). In the total student sample, math (0.5 percent) and physical science (0.6 percent) majors were least likely to register and vote in an election.

“It makes you wonder if we’re doing anything from a positive or negative or neutral standpoint within the various curricula that have an impact on political engagement. It makes you wonder why some of them are not involved, such as social science majors where you find political science,” Flowers said. 

Among social and behavioral science majors, 5.7 percent of African Americans were registered to vote.

The numbers were mined from the 2004 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a nationally representative database that contains a variety of information regarding college students, Flowers said.

“I think the findings were noteworthy and need to be discussed,” Flowers said. “This is more about political engagement — not just voting — and of course political engagement is key to democracy.”

Flowers noted that a number of college students have not reached voting age when they arrive on campus and many may not register until an election nears.

Still, participation among the registered voters is high as the percentages of students who registered to vote are almost identical to those who have actually voted.

“It shows that those efforts to get young people registered pay off. If you can get them to register, they vote,” Flowers said.

When Flowers focused on the African-American student data, he found that students majoring in health fields were the second most likely group of voters, with 16.6 percent registered, followed by undeclared students or those not in a degree program, at 15.2 percent. With 2.6 percent registered to vote, vocational and technical majors were near the math and physical science majors at the bottom of the participation ladder.

The Charles H. Houston Center conducts research, produces scholarship, implements programs and serves as an information source on issues pertaining to the black experience in education in South Carolina and across the country. The center is based in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education.


For more information go to: http://www.clemson.edu.