Politics is not commonly associated with STEM subjects, but as the decade closes, STEM fields are becoming increasingly important to policy. With the rise of large Silicon Valley corporations, security and privacy have been major concerns. Talk about climate change has also been on the rise as temperatures reach record highs. Southern states like Georgia have held controversial debates on the ethics of abortion and what is considered life.
However, despite STEM’s relevance, voter turnout for STEM majors is significantly lower compared to humanities majors.
For the University of Georgia, the NSLVE reports that turnout for students studying for public administration and social service professions was 62.8% in the 2016 election while students studying computer and information sciences turned out at only a 31.1% rate.
Those who are interested in political science are bound to vote at high rates since their studies are directly involved in politics, but STEM students may not be as involved politically because they feel that their studies do not apply well to politics, even though this is false.
“I would be more inclined to vote, but many STEM majors think politics doesn’t directly affect them, which is an incorrect belief since many STEM fields deal with legislative issues.” said Kelcey Lee, a junior biology major at UGA, when asked if she would be more inclined to vote if biology were more relevant in politics.
Politics does not require extensive knowledge of STEM, but STEM majors are better fit to inform the public on STEM issues. For instance, there is a significant number of people who reject the idea of climate change, but environmental science majors could work to educate such people.
Ideally, people should make well-informed votes, and students who major in STEM bring an important perspective to science-related issues. For instance, computer science majors have a greater understanding of the impacts Silicon Valley companies have on our lives. Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate, introduces the idea of data as a property right. A student who studies computer science may have greater insight to how data is used and the value of data.
Political involvement is not limited to voting though. As a STEM major, educating others on STEM-related issues is a great way to be politically active. That way, you can exert influence through not just your vote but others' as well.
STEM is also relevant for jobs. For example, engineering jobs, such as aerospace engineering, may require funding from government. As an engineer, a student may want to support politicians in favor of aerospace development.
As of 2016, UGA is below average in voter turnout compared to other institutions. If STEM majors start to participate in politics, UGA as a whole will be a more well-informed and politically-educated university.