College students are more likely to vote for Sen. John Kerry than President Bush in the November presidential election, according to a poll released last week by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
The poll, which last month questioned more than a thousand students at colleges across the country, found that 48 percent of respondents said they preferred Kerry while 38 percent would vote for Bush.
Although Kerry is ahead in the poll, his lead is soft because many respondents favored the presumed Democratic nominee but admitted that they were not familiar with him, pollsters said.
John Della Volpe, a partner in a polling firm that conducted the survey for Harvard, said many college students are frustrated with the president and are willing to elect “anybody but Bush,” as one respondent said.
Beth Howard, a first-year GW graduate student, affirmed Della Volpe’s assertion by saying she would vote for Kerry only to prevent Bush from having a second term.
“I’d like to not see (Bush) in office again so I’ll vote for Kerry, but I’d wouldn’t otherwise – I would rather vote for someone else,” she said.
Bush has lost support from college students largely because of the war in Iraq, said Della Volpe.
Senior Dave Shapanka agreed that the climbing death toll in Iraq has weakened Bush’s college student support.
“Kids our age, kids we went to high school with are over in Iraq and they’re being killed,” Shapanka said. “That’s why college students aren’t supportive of the war.”
The college vote could prove very important if the November election is as close as the 2000 presidential race, Della Volpe said. Several hotly contested states, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, have large public universities with many registered voters.
“(There is) no question that the college vote could make the difference – there are roughly 10 million college students nationwide,” he said.
About 62 percent of the poll’s respondents plan on voting in the fall. This was a significant increase from previous surveys, said Caitlin Monahan, a Harvard sophomore who helped design the poll.
“Just a month before the 2000 election, only 50 percent of college students said that they planned to vote,” she said. “If this 62 percent actually bears out it would be historic levels of college students voting.”
Many students, influenced by get-out-the-vote drives, said they would be casting ballots this November.
“College-aged students have been conditioned by what has happened in the last four years so we are going to be more concerned with voting,” junior Jackie Andes said. “It is a generational effect at work.”
While Republicans were gaining ground with college students in recent years, the Democrats are recapturing the allegiance of some of their traditional supporters with an 8 percent edge in registered voters, according to the poll.
But freshman Christopher Sheeron said more young voters would be drawn back to the Republican Party as the election nears.
“I think you will see another flip flop back again (to Bush) in November,” he said.
Junior Emily Marthaler agreed that it is too early to conclude which candidate will win the college vote.
“Its going to change,” she said, “the numbers will change and continue to fluctuate until the election.”
Results of Harvard University poll of college students
*48 percent – favor Sen. John Kerry
*38 percent – favor President George W. Bush
Most important issues for students:
*War in Iraq