Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

University of Wisconsin Social Norms Campaign



Implementer: University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

Program Overview: This university social norms program used print media and curriculum infusion in an attempt to reduce alcohol related negative consequences and problem behavior among university students.

Program Design: The on-campus social norms campaign promoted the message that most students at the university only consume between 0 and 5 drinks per week. In the first two years of the campaign this message was mainly disseminated through on-campus posters and flyers (all materials were extensively tested through focus groups prior to use). The campaign also relied promotional materials (pens, water bottles, cups, magnets, and other give-aways), student presentations (during orientation and classes), and introduction of concepts into curricula by professors willing to participate.

Evaluation: The evaluation of this program relied heavily upon use of the Core Institute's Alcohol and Drug Survey. The campaign was launched in June 2000 and the survey was administered in 1999, 2000, and 2001 to collect pre test, post test, and follow-up data. Annual data was also used to monitor campaign progress. In 2001 results indicated that the program message of 0 to 5 had reached its saturation point. Due to this information program implementers began to research future directions for the campaign, for example increasing focus on multicultural and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students.

Key findings1Survey results showed that over the course of the campaign:

  • Reductions in student misperceptions of peers alcohol use
  • Increases in self-reported protective behaviors
  • Decreases in the number of police reports of vandalism and property damage


 1. Swanson, D. J., Zegers, K. M., & Zwaska, A. A. (2004).Implementing a social norms approach to reduce alcohol abuse on campus: Lessons learned in the shadow of 'The World's Largest Six Pack"The Social Science Journal, Vol. 41, 621-635.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: University
Approach: Social Norms
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