Student Project Sheds Light on College Students' Interest in 2008 Presidential Election

Article ID: 535824

Released: 30-Nov-2007 3:45 PM EST

Source Newsroom: American University

Newswise — What do college students really think about the 2008 election? An American University student project conducted in collaboration with washingtonpost.com looked into it and found that most students interviewed said they intend to vote, are rooting for Barack Obama, and that the most important issues are Iraq, the war, the environment, privacy and healthcare.

All 25 students enrolled in the "Politics and the Media" class at AU conducted online interviews with more than 100 students at 75 colleges and universities around the nation. The interviews were conducted between Oct. 19 and 29, 2007. The class then compiled the results, analyzed the data, and wrote a series of articles which were published by the washingtonpost.com as a package called "College Vote '08: From the Frat House to the White House, a College Take on Election 2008." The class also designed the graphic accompanying the stories.

During the initial stage of the project, the students, taught by Jane Hall, associate professor of journalism at AU's School of Communication, met and talked with Jon Cohen, polling director for the Washington Post. He provided guidance for scripting questions. Dotty Lynch, executive-in-residence at the School of Communication and political consultant for CBS News, and Maria Ivancin, assistant professor of public communication and survey research expert, consulted the students for several weeks on pinpointing issues of interest to college students and on crafting questions. Students also examined polls by the Washington Post and other news organizations. A series of questions about national security and privacy was drawn from a Harris poll.

A total of 150 college students were contacted to participate and 108 responded. Respondents were interviewed via e-mail and completed a Web-based survey application. Each member of the "Politics and the Media" class was responsible for selecting six respondents and distributing the survey to them. The respondents, ages 18 to 24, were chosen to be roughly proportionate to the 2004 census of college students in the areas of ethnicity, gender and geographic region.

The project was not designed to be representative of all college students and the results cannot be generalized beyond the 108 respondents.

The results broke down as follows:

Intent to vote and political orientation"¢ 96 percent intend to vote "¢ 82 percent are already registered to vote "¢ 48 percent identified themselves as liberal "¢ 34 percent identified themselves as moderate "¢ 20 percent identified themselves as conservative

Candidate preference if election held today"¢ 27 percent would vote for Barack Obama"¢ 18 percent would vote for Hillary Clinton"¢ 5 percent would vote for John Edwards"¢ 6 percent would vote for Rudy Giuliani"¢ 5 percent would vote for Mike Huckabee"¢ 4 percent would vote for Ron Paul

The most important issues from a national perspective"¢ 42 percent said Iraq and the war, the largest consensus"¢ 8 percent said the environment or global warming"¢ 2 percent said reproductive rights

The most important issues from a national and personal perspective"¢ At 12 percent each, Iraq and the war tied with education for the largest consensus "¢ 6 percent said reproductive rights"¢ 5 percent said same-sex marriage

Issues that would determine voting behavior"¢ 51 percent said a candidate's stance on the environment was very important"¢ 37 percent said a candidate's stance on the environment was somewhat important"¢ Less than 40 percent said a candidate's stance on abortion or same-sex marriage was very important

Other findings include that 27 percent consider themselves pro-life; 76 percent favor same-sex marriage; and 81 percent said healthcare is an important issue to them, personally. Ninety-four students answered questions about privacy and increased government surveillance. Of this sample, 63 percent opposed increased monitoring of Internet chat rooms and 73 percent opposed increased monitoring of cell phones and e-mail. However, the students favored techniques that seem more related to security and thwarting terrorism, as 54 percent approved of stronger document and physical security checks for travelers; 49 percent supported expanded undercover activity to penetrate suspicious groups; and 50 percent favored closer monitoring of banking and credit card transfers to trace funding.

A list of the colleges and universities represented in the project can be found on washingtonpost.com.

"Politics and the Media" is a class offered through American University's School of Communication, a laboratory for professional education, communication research and innovative production across the fields of journalism, film and media arts, and public communication. Patrick Butler, vice president of The Washington Post Company; Susan Zirinsky, executive producer for CBS's "48 Hours Investigates" ; and Tony Perkins, morning anchor for WTTG Fox 5 and former meteorologist for ABC's "Good Morning America" are among the School of Communication's alumni who maintain close relationships with the school.


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