If Penn students are any indication of how Pennsylvania residents are likely to vote, Vice President Al Gore is well on his way to winning the state's hotly contested 23 electoral votes. In a Daily Pennsylvanian survey of 356 likely undergraduate voters, Democrat Gore trounced Republican George W. Bush, gaining the support of an overwhelming 67 percent of those polled. By comparison, Bush found favor with just 20 percent of respondents, and 5 percent said they would vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Eight percent of students said they were still undecided with a week left before Election Day. The survey, which was conducted over a three-night period ending Tuesday, has a margin of error of 5 percent. According to the heads of campus groups representing both of the major-party candidates, the results were not surprising considering the political tendencies of Penn students. "I'm glad to see that the... campus supports Al Gore's candidacy," Penn for Gore Chairman Michael Bassik said. "If you compare his stance on the issues with other leading candidates, he clearly is the best candidate for issues affecting college-age students." Even the head of the campus group representing Bush said the results were far from shocking. "I think it's to be expected on a college campus," said Penn for Bush Chairwoman Meredith Voliva, a College sophomore. "It's not any real surprise, although we have seen a favorable response among the student body." When it came to the issues, Penn students said the issue of abortion was weighing most heavily in the political debate. Sixty percent of the total respondents rated the issue as particularly important, with 75 percent of all women polled saying it is one of the most important issues facing the candidates. About half of those surveyed said they thought the candidates' tax policies are important, as is their character and integrity. The centerpiece of Bush's campaign is an across-the-board tax cut for all Americans. Gore favors a smaller, targeted tax cut for the middle class, and claims that Bush's plan unfairly benefits the wealthy and would spend all of the budget surplus. Bush has also spent much of the campaign talking about "restoring honor to the White House," a reference to the scandals of the Clinton administration. In addition to their candidate preferences, the survey also revealed that Penn students are intending to head to the polls in dramatic numbers, far in excess of the average turnout for all voters and young people in particular. Of 433 eligible voters polled, 82 percent said they intend to vote either in person or through absentee ballot in this Tuesday's election. That number stands in stark contrast to the nationwide average for voters between the age of 18 and 29, a group which more often than not tends to stay at home on Election Day. According to data provided by Youth Vote 2000, a Washington, D.C.-based group that aims to increase voter turnout among young people, less than one-sixth of all eligible 18-to-29 year-old voters cast ballots in the presidential race of 1996. And less than half of the electorate as a whole voted that year. Youth Vote 2000 representatives don't expect those numbers to change dramatically during this cycle, saying that neither of the two major candidates has done an effective job of prioritizing young voters in their campaign efforts. "We're not sure the numbers will change much," Youth Vote 2000 spokesman John Dervin said. "We're hopeful but we're also realistic. We've done more than ever, but we have to remember that it's all in the context of the $3 billion that have been spent on federal elections this year... and such a small percentage of that was dedicated to youth." Dervin added that small pockets of greater youth participation were likely -- such as in North Carolina, where changes to the law have made voter registration easier -- but the fault for youth apathy still rests with the candidates. "A lot relies on how much the campaigns reached out to younger Americans and made them a priority," he said. "The unfortunate truth is that that wasn't really the case this year." Penn students' strong support for the vice president shows a much more Democratic population than the country as a whole. According to the latest Gallup Poll of likely American voters, Gore trails the Texas governor by five points, with Bush claiming 48 percent to Gore's 43 percent. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is polling at 3 percent, and Reform Party nominee Pat Buchanan is at just 1 percent. None of the Penn students surveyed said they plan to vote for Buchanan, the arch-conservative who failed to win the Republican nomination and dropped out of the party. Besides the candidates, students also weighed in on their party of choice as well as their feelings on certain key issues confronting voters and politicians this year. Forty-seven percent of students said they were registered Democrats and, of those, 92 percent plan to vote for Gore. Registered Republicans make up 18.5 percent of respondents, and 72 percent of them plan to cast a vote for Bush. Nader supporters surfaced most frequently among registered Independents, with 10 percent of those respondents supporting the Green Party's nominee. Gore supporters have warned in recent weeks that a vote for Nader, who is almost certainly assured of losing the election, is akin to supporting Bush. But while the Nader loss is a virtual given, there is still much disagreement over how much support he will receive. "In a place like Oregon we may see support among young people for Nader as high as 10 or 20 percent," Dervin said. "I think [Nader] is a real concern... though there's a misconception that college-age students are tremendously in support of [him]," Bassik said.Comments powered by Disqus
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