Main Article Content

Demographic and Systemic Factors Affecting Student Voter Turnout in Africa’s Largest Distance Higher Education Institution

Tshegofatso Mogaladi
Motlatso Mlambo


Public higher education institutions in South Africa conduct Student Representative Council (SRC) elections yearly. However, there is a paucity of studies to  determine factors that affect voter turnout in these elections. This descriptive quantitative study conducted an empirical analysis of factors influencing  students’ voter participation at Africa’s largest Open Distance eLearning institution. An electronic survey instrument was distributed among  the sampled students and yielded a final response count of 6,851. A joint descriptive statistical analysis and binary logistic regression model were applied  to analyse the data. Regression analysis revealed that there was a significant relationship between students having encountered one or more of a  number of marketing initiatives employed in relation to the elections and voter participation. This positions marketing as a significant predictor of  student voting given that respondents who encountered SRC election marketing initiatives were seven times more likely to vote, as shown by the odds  ratio (OR=7.9 [95% CI:6.6-9.3], p=0.001). The second-highest predictor of voting in this study was the impact of the closing date for voting. Student  respondents who indicated that the voting period was long enough were two times more likely to vote compared with those who did not believe it was  long enough (OR=2.2 [95% CI: 1.9-2.7], p-value <0.001). Other significant predictors of SRC voting included gender, employment status and level of  qualification. Whereas the study revealed a fair balance between the influence of demographic and systemic factors on SRC electoral process, institutions  need to pay close attention to systemic factors, which have great potential to constrain voter participation.