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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

College Students Catch Up to Young People in General

Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) has released another in their series of polls of (four year) college undergraduates. Prior to this poll, college students–at least those at four year colleges–appeared to deviate from the preferences of young (18-29 year old) voters in general. For example, in the IOP October, 2003 survey, college students gave Bush an approval rating of 61 percent and said they preferred him over a Democratic opponent by 5 points. But polls of all young voters at the time generally gave a generic Democratic opponent a healthy lead over Bush.
In contrast, today college students give Bush only a 47 percent approval rating and say they prefer Kerry over Bush by 10 points. That’s basically the same as Kerry’s lead among all young voters at the present time.
Moreover, among those who say they are registered to vote and say they will “definitely be voting”, Kerry has a commanding 23 point lead.
In more good news for Democrats, college students give Democrats an 8 point lead over Republicans in party ID, reversing a Republican advantage in October, 2003. It’s also the largest lead Democrats have had on party ID since IOP started taking their surveys in fall of 2000.
There is more interesting data in the poll on college students’ views of specific issues. You can read the entire poll here.

8 comments on “College Students Catch Up to Young People in General

  1. Sara on

    To understand the political attitudes of College Students at any given time, it is useful to remember they have very little knowledge of political history beyond their own political awakening during their teen years. Like it or not, that is their frame of reference. For those in college today, the dominant images would be Clinton’s second term with the Impeachment mess, followed by the Florida Election mess and then 911. There is little in any of that likely to turn them toward fairly progressive political ideas, or even introduce them into the mix. For those of us who are older — and remember things like Vietnam or Civil Rights or even Watergate — we have to pinch ourselves and remember that the vast majority of today’s college students only know those events as part of political history through some films, perhaps a fes pages in a text book, or maybe listening to a few conversations with their parents generation. Most have no knowledge of these things at all, because they are not really represented in the popular culture in which they have lived their lives. They will poll accordingly until something brings them up short, and they make an effort to acquire a broader frame of reference that includes at least some history they did not personally experience. Aah yes, there are exceptions — but the vast majority of undergraduate students are profoundly a-historical, and always have been.

  2. reignman on

    the polls probably are only polling about 20 people per average size state. you can find seperate state-wide polls though.
    yes, i agree. does anyone know where such a national poll may be (w/ state-by-state info.).

  3. ARao on

    Can somebody do a state-by-state analysis (with current polling data) to show how the electoral college will pan out if the election were held tomorrow?

  4. Ron Thompson on

    Have a look at the results–there’s a link at the end of Ruy’s essay. 78% of the respondents are White. 30% of those who say they’re Republicans cite their family upbringing as the main reason, and 65% of all respondents say their parents’ total household income in 2003 was over $50,000. Perhaps most significant of all, 33% of the respondents are freshmen, and 23% are sophomores, so the sample is skewed heavily toward students who are under 21. They are the people who haven’t seen this movie before–the big deficits, social reactionaryism, and militarism of Republican administrations.

  5. Karl on

    My guess is this:
    Financial aid at colleges has been getting shittier and shittier, and the proportion of working, and even lower middle, class, people who go to them has been decreasing, even at state universities. This means that the people at 4-year colleges are closer and closer to Bush’s ‘base’ among the wealthy.
    Not to say that most college age people are right wing now, because they aren’t. But as someone who spent 4 years at college, and then two at grad school, all at the same university (I finished my Masters quite recently) I saw the student body change from majority left and left-of centre to majority apolitical, with the left and right having about equal visibility on campus. And I went to school in Massachusetts. I can only imagine what it’s like in the rest of the country

  6. Tecla on

    I had no idea Bush support among college students was previously so high. That’s just bizarre to me – very counterintuitive. Why do you think that was?


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