DP poll shows Democrat-leaning campus

More identified as independent than Republican, poll shows

· November 1, 2012, 1:14 am

Despite close numbers between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney nationally, likely voters at Penn have self-identified as 55.0 percent Democrat, according to a poll conducted by The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Of the 1,070 likely voters who responded, 15.1 percent are registered as Republicans, 24.7 percent are independents and 5.1 percent identified as other.

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The University registrar provided the DP with a random sample of 2,994 undergraduate and graduate student email addresses. Of those who received a request to complete the survey, 1,413 responded to the survey.

While the percentage of registered Democrats in Pennsylvania is relatively close to Penn’s — 50.1 percent of Pennsylvania voters have registered as Democrats — the state has a significantly higher percentage of registered Republicans, 36.9 percent.

A majority of likely voters who responded “approve somewhat” of how Obama is handling his job as president. 63.2 percent of Democrats “approve somewhat,” and 27.0 percent “approve strongly.”

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“President Obama disappointed many supporters with a weak performance in the first debate, compounding disappointments with his limited success in reviving the economy and his acceptances of national security policies that limit civil liberties,” political science professor Rogers Smith said. “That makes strong approval uncommon.”

Penn Democrats president and College junior Andrew Brown said despite the numbers, Penn Dems is “not having any challenges at all generating enthusiasm” for Obama.

“Policy-making is all about coalition building and the president, when leading his party and Congress, has to make choices about what he wants to prioritize,” he said. “When you make choices like that, it is very difficult to please everyone all the time.”

Fifty-six percent of likely independent voters “approve somewhat” of the president’s handling of his job, and 52.5 percent of likely Republican voters “disapprove strongly.”

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Students said the top three most important issues in this election are unemployment and jobs, the federal deficit and health care, respectively. These are likely in line with the rest of the country’s priorities, according to Smith.

In addition, 64.6 percent of respondents who plan on voting trust Obama more than Romney to handle the issue of the economy and the unemployment rate, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. There was a more stark divide in the issues of foreign policy and higher education affordability. Likely voters indicated that 81.3 percent and 85.0 percent trust Obama more to handle the respective issues, with margins of error of plus or minus 2.4 and 2.2 percentage points respectively.

Penn students are registered to vote at a considerably higher rate than in the state — 80.5 percent of Penn students surveyed are registered to vote in the United States, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. Only 66.6 percent of the state is registered to vote, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

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Partisan divides occur across schools. Of the four undergraduate schools, Wharton had the highest portion of likely Republican voters at 30.1 percent. The College had the highest percent of likely Democratic voters at 56.8 percent. Four hundred forty-three students likely to vote answered this question.

“Wharton students are interested in business careers and Republicans place greater value on business careers than Democrats. No surprise Wharton attracts more Republicans,” Smith said. “The College attracts students interested in a wide range of liberal arts studies, and many of these feature the sorts of social issues … more often of interest to Democrats.”

A partisan divide also exists between graduate and undergraduate students. Graduate students were found to be more Democrat-leaning than undergraduate students. While 49.4 percent of undergraduates likely to vote are registered Democrats, as opposed to 61.7 percent of graduate students. There are more registered independents than Republicans among both undergraduate and graduate likely voters. Four hundred forty-four likely graduate students and 331 undergraduates answered this question.

This poll was conducted through SurveyMonkey.com from Oct. 17 to Oct. 24. Poll questions were modeled off those from polling agencies such as Gallup and the Pew Research Center. With the exception of “Are you registered to vote in the United States?” no question was mandatory.

All margins of error were calculated with a 95 percent confidence interval.

Copy Editor Will Marble and City News Editor Julie Xie contributed to this story.

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