Lower Trust Among Women, LGBTQ+ Students Entering Midterms

A new BestColleges survey reveals that women and LGBTQ+ students are less likely to vote in the 2022 midterms and less likely to feel represented in U.S. politics.

Published October 25, 2022

Edited by Reece Johnson
Lower Trust Among Women, LGBTQ+ Students Entering Midterms
Survey Reports
Photo by Spiderplay / E+ / Getty Images

Data Summary

  • 77% of women students compared to 83% of men say they plan on voting in the 2022 midterm election.
  • Only 23% of women trust the U.S. political system, compared to 37% of men surveyed.
  • A quarter (25%) of women students say they don't identify with a political party versus just 17% of men.
  • Over half (52%) of LGBTQ+ students say they do not trust the U.S. political system, compared to 35% of straight students.
  • LGBTQ+ students also report they are less likely to vote in this election compared to straight students (77% vs. 81%).
  • More than twice as many college women (43%) as men (21%) consider abortion a top political issue in the midterms.

A year marked by anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion legislation may have women and LGBTQ+ students feeling disillusioned and distrusting of the U.S. political system entering the midterms.

A recent BestColleges survey of over 1,000 current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students finds that women and LGBTQ+ respondents have far less trust in the U.S. political system than their male and straight peers.

Women Students Planning to Vote at Lower Rates than Men

Two-thirds of women students surveyed believe voting matters. However, just 77% of registered women we surveyed plan on voting, compared to 83% of men.

This finding is remarkable considering historical trends documented by the U.S. Census Bureau, showing that women typically have higher registration and voting rates than men in midterm elections.

What's more, just 28% of college women surveyed feel represented in U.S. elections, compared to 41% of men surveyed. This might indicate that college women don't feel that elected officials uphold their beliefs or address the issues that matter most to them.

In addition to lower voter registration, lower pans to vote, and lower identification with political parties than men, women also express lower trust in the integrity of the midterm elections.

Thirty-nine percent of women believe the 2022 midterm election will be free and fair, compared to almost half (48%) of men surveyed. Less than a quarter (23%) of women trust the U.S. political system, compared to 37% of men surveyed.

Additionally, more than twice as many women than men surveyed consider abortion a top political issue in the midterms, 43% vs. 21%.

The reversal of Roe vs. Wade impacts college students directly, limiting access to abortion services and decreasing students' bodily autonomy.

The Republican party has typically championed an anti-abortion stance, and women students we surveyed are less likely than men to identify as Republican (17% vs. 28%).

Nearly equal numbers of men and women students identify as Democrat (42% vs. 43%). Overall, however, college women may feel less affinity for the major political parties — a quarter (25%) of women students say they don't identify with a political party versus just 17% of men.

LGBTQ+ Students Especially Likely to Distrust the System

2022 has also been notorious for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation — from the 100+ anti-trans laws introduced to Florida's Don't Say Gay bill and copycat proposals in Indiana and Kentucky aimed at public colleges.

These laws and proposals can add to the specific stressors LGBTQ+ students may face, like being out on a politically divided campus or navigating access to LGBTQ-friendly student healthcare.

More than half (52%) of LGBTQ+ students in our survey say they do not trust the U.S. political system, compared to just 35% of straight students.

Just over a quarter (29%) of LGBTQ+ students say they feel represented in national elections, compared to 35% of straight students. And 41% of LGBTQ+ students have faith the upcoming midterms will be free and fair, versus 44% of straight students. However, LGBTQ+ students are slightly more likely than their straight peers to see the direct impact of elections on their day-to-day lives (52% vs. 48%).

Compared to their straight peers, LGBTQ+ students are about half as likely to identify with the Republican party (12% vs. 26%), more likely to identify with the Democratic party (47% vs. 41%), and slightly more likely to not identify with a party at all (25% vs. 21%).

They are just slightly less likely than straight students to be registered to vote (64% vs. 66%) or to say they plan on voting in the 2022 midterm elections (77% vs. 81%).

Does Voting Matter for College Students?

Survey respondents generally agree that voting matters, regardless of the respondent's race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. And, voting is the number one way students in our survey express their political beliefs.

The good news is that our survey suggests voter turnout is still expected to be relatively high for a midterm election, especially among Generation Z voters.

It's not too late to register in some states. Visit our student voting guide to learn how or get involved with the issues.

Methodology

The survey was conducted from September 28-October 3, 2022, and was fielded by Pure Spectrum. Survey participants included 1,002 respondents nationwide who were currently enrolled in or planning to enroll in an on-campus or hybrid undergraduate or graduate degree program at a college or university in the next 12 months. Respondents were 16-59 years of age and currently pursuing or planning to pursue an associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or professional degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.