Seeing Blue: College students back Obama in Flat Hat poll

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November 4, 2008

2:43 AM

_Click “here”:http://flathatnews.com/content/69295/flat-hat-2008-election-poll for The Flat Hat’s complete election poll results._

Virginia may be a swing state, but the College of William and Mary is clearly in Sen. Barack Obama’s corner.

According to a Flat Hat web survey of 430 College students last week, 68 percent support Obama in today’s presidential election, and 27 percent support Sen. John McCain. Three percent of students are undecided, while the remaining 2 percent plan to vote for a third party.

The web survey, conducted between Oct. 27 and Oct. 31, was sent by The Flat Hat via e-mail to a random sampling of 1,250 students over the age of 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points. Eight students, 1.86 percent of 430 respondents, were not registered to vote.

The poll also examined political ideology at the College. Forty-seven percent of students classify themselves as liberal or very liberal, while 20 percent consider themselves conservative or very conservative. Thirty-one percent of students polled consider themselves as moderate.

Government professor Ronald Rapoport said that the political climate at the College has shifted dramatically during his tenure.

“When I came here in 1976, it was almost two to one for [Republican presidential candidate] Gerald Ford over [Democratic incumbent] Jimmy Carter, so you see quite a change in the political makeup of the campus,” Rapoport said.

Rapoport attributes this shift to the increasing presence of students from northern Virginia at the College.

When polled on party preference, 51 percent of students classify themselves as Democrats, while 20 percent classify themselves as Republicans. Twenty-four percent do not affiliate themselves with a political party. Among students who do not identify with a party, 62.5 percent plan to vote for Obama, while 26 percent said they will cast their ballot for McCain. Ten percent remain undecided.

“The story line here is that there is not a lot of defection of liberals to McCain or conservatives to Obama, or of Democrats to McCain or Republicans to Obama,” Rapoport said. “It is that, at William and Mary, there are simply more liberals than conservatives, there are more Democrats than Republicans, and if you look at moderates and independents, they split pretty much two to one for Obama.”

One area where McCain holds an advantage is with the College’s most religious students. Among those who attend religious services at least once a week, which make up 16 percent of total respondents, 67 percent support McCain and 30 percent support Obama.

22 percent of total respondents claimed never to attend religious services and plan to vote for Obama over McCain 83 percent to 12.5 percent.

“The religiosity factor is something that is often missed,” Rapoport said. “The effect is not as strong as ideology or party, but it is certainly a lot stronger than gender and income.”

When broken down by gender, Obama holds a greater advantage among women than men. Seventy-two percent of female respondents support Obama while 22 percent support McCain. Four percent remain undecided. The gap between the two candidates is significantly closer among men, as 60 percent of men surveyed favor Obama while 37 percent favor McCain, with 2 percent undecided.

The 12-percentage-point gap between male and female support for Obama is significantly higher than the 7-percent gap reported in the most recent national Gallup poll. This is an interesting deviation from the national norm that shows College students are not as homogenous in their political views as may be expected.

The most striking results of the campus poll is the extraordinary high number of students registered to vote. In all, 41.5 percent of respondents are registered to vote in Williamsburg, while 41.75 percent are registered elsewhere in Virginia. Students who will vote absentee for another state constitute 16.75 percent of respondents. The high level of student registration in Williamsburg may be attributed to increased efforts by campus organizations to register as many students as possible.

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