November 20, 2003

Political Poll Off For C.U.

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Harvard University’s Institute of Politics recently conducted a poll in order to assess American college students’ views on politics. While the Harvard poll may be accurate for general population assessment, in terms of individual Cornell students, the findings are more questionable.

The poll ran over a week from Oct. 3 to Oct. 12. Telephone interviews were conducted on a cross section of college students nationwide.

The results of the poll were in opposition to stereotypical views of how college students feel towards political issues. The survey of 1,202 students found the following: Students are mostly independent, but lean slightly Republican. They are quite worried about the economy. Generally, students are supportive of President George W. Bush. However, trust in the President has declined while concerns about Iraq grow. Students plan to participate in the 2004 election. Lastly, most students would like to become more politically involved.

In addition, the poll found that more than eight out of ten students agree that their vote will make a difference in the Presidential election. More than 90 percent of college students disagreed with the statement: “It doesn’t matter who the President is.” Also, 46 percent of college students, seven percent more than the general public, said that the country in on the right track.

Guillermo Coronado, student co-chair of the survey group and one of the leaders of the Institute of Politics, said that the survey shows that stereotypes usually associated with young people are simply not true. “Young people are not necessarily liberal and overly idealistic,” he said.

In order to gauge Cornell’s feelings about the same types of issues assessed in the Harvard poll, Tim Lim ’06 of the Cornell Democrats and Elliott Reed ’05 of the Cornell Republicans were interviewed. Lim feels that from looking at the poll, students should be concerned because it appears that there are more Republicans than Democrats on college campuses.

When asked what he thought about most college students being Independent, he said, “When you say Independent, you are facing apathy. These independents are not active. How many college students are actually going out there to vote?”

Regarding the economy, Lim believes that Bush has neglected the subject in relation to college students. In his opinion, the President has made many promises without following through — and his foreign policy has further alienated Americans.

Reed said that his group wishes that the President would make more steps toward the Right and would be more aggressive in regards to foreign policy. He thinks that if college students had to choose a party today, they would, for the most part, choose Democrat. However they may lean slightly Republican on some issues.

Concerning how Bush deals with college student issues, “there are many issues where Bush has affected our age bracket. Students do not recognize that Bush is behind the scenes,” Reed stated. Reed further feels that “politicians aren’t driving [college student’s] job prospects as much as they would like to think.”

“Bush is one of the best leaders of the 21st century and mostly tells the truth. As with any president he has to withhold some information, but he does not fabricate things,” Reed said.

To gain the perspective of individual students, five random Cornellians including Nonah Ikeda ’05, Joslin Madreperl ’04 and Kathryn Harper ’05 were asked briefly about some political views and activity. Out of the five students, one was a Democrat, one a Republican, one of no affiliation, and one who did not know what party she associated herself with. Four out of the five students had never voted before. Most of the students did not blame Bush for the economy, but Ikeda stated that he “definitely didn’t make it better.” Two out of the five students were generally supportive of Bush.

All interviewees were asked about the issue of why students did not vote. All agreed that college students have been let down either by the lack of voting ease or the President’s failure to address issues important to students.

“People are registered and want to vote, but 1/4th of these people don’t know how to vote. Very rarely does the ‘establishment’ focus on issues from a youth perspective,” Coronado said.

Archived article by Ikea Hamilton