On this coming Tuesday, residents of Minnesota and twenty-three other states will participate in the largest Super Tuesday in history. Here in Minnesota, Carls will have the opportunity to be a part of this state’s caucus and voice their say for which candidate they wish to send to the national convention. But what will our Carl attendees be saying, and why will they be saying it? The Carletonian took a closer look.
Over the past two weeks, this newspaper distributed roughly six hundred surveys randomly throughout student mailboxes in order to gauge the campus’s political atmosphere. Indeed, much has happened in the national election over those two weeks, including a decisive victory for Barack Obama in South Carolina and a win for Hillary Clinton in Florida. On Wednesday, John Edwards announced that he was dropping out of the Democratic race altogether, a day after Rudy Giuliani quit and endorsed John McCain for the Republican nomination.
Of the 127 initial surveys returned, in which the student was given three Democratic candidates – Obama, Clinton, and Edwards (who dropped out of the race only after the results of the survey had been collected and analyzed) – and five Republican candidates – McCain, Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani (who, like Edwards, withdrew only this past week), and Ron Paul – and also asked for gender, class year, and whether or not the student was planning on attending the Minnesota caucuses. An overwhelming majority of students reported that if they caucused, they would choose Obama, the current Illinois senator.
In a second, more extensive survey, Carls were asked if race or gender has influenced their decision, why Obama has such a large support of the youth vote, how large a part personality plays in their decision-making, and if the student has any reservations regarding the candidate that they plan on voting for.
Most results of this second survey suggested that personality and age played a large role in the amount of support that Obama has received from youth voters. “He’s an appealing younger guy, and seems cool,” wrote one respondent, himself an Obama supporter.
“He’s articulate, idealistic (hopefully not dumb about it) and young, kind of like a new JFK,” wrote another.
Other responses echoed these comments. Because he is a “younger, relatively attractive public figure with more new-age ideas for our country,” Obama is the candidate college students are inclined to vote for, wrote one student, while another emphasized the age difference: “He’s not a boomer.” One Edwards supporter makes similar claims for the attractiveness of Obama’s age and attitudes:
“He’s young, charismatic, and embodies change and upheaval to the white-dominated political system.”
Additionally, when asked about personality in the decision-making process, all but one student admitted that personality weighed heavily in their support for Obama. One male junior said, “Issues are important, but my final distinction is on instinct.” A female sophomore was a bit more blunt, saying that “Because of their political similarities, choosing between Obama and Clinton is all personality.”
Other Carls, however, were hard-pressed to name specific issues that set Obama apart from the other democratic candidates. One freshman wrote that “Obama speaks of change as a concept while Edwards and Clinton actually discuss the changes they would make. It’s kind of ridiculous that he’s doing so well without a widely-known platform.”
Race and gender seemed to play a less significant role in the choices of students surveyed. Although one Obama supporter pointed out that race and gender contribute to the decision-making process because “you’ve got to take the whole person into account,” a majority of respondents disagreed, responding in their surveys that the two factors had little influence. However, as one female planning to vote for Obama wrote, “I try not to let race and gender influence my vote, but, subconsciously, societal norms have ingrained that consideration.”
The entire campus, however, was not completely sold on Obama. A number of Hillary supporters made the survey a bit more interesting, with an increasing number of slips going her way with the second survey. One sophomore girl cited her “undeniable superiority when it comes to experience and foreign policy issues” while a first-year student said that “her healthcare plan is much bolder than Obama’s.”
As for the Republican candidates, support in the survey was expectedly sparse. With only thirteen students choosing the side of the GOP, compared to the 110 for democratic candidates, it is unlikely that any fruitful analysis is possible. Nevertheless, John McCain enjoyed a small majority with five supporters, beating out Ron Paul’s three respondents. Of the thirteen republican supporters, ten said they planned on actually attending the Minnesota caucus.
The third and final category of students surveyed, those still undecided, were more difficult to poll. Perhaps this is the fault of the Carletonian for not including either an “undecided” or “other” category, but it seems unlikely that the three who wrote in as much were alone. The large number of surveys never filled out, which found their way into the Sayles trashcans and floors, most likely represented those either without a decided candidate, uninterested in the primary, or simply uninterested in this survey.
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