A Daily Pennsylvanian poll found that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump 84% to 10% among Penn undergraduates.
Respondents were asked to indicate if they plan to vote and which candidate they intend to vote for. The survey also asked respondents to identify issues they considered to be the most pertinent in the general election and to rate the United States government's and Penn's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 96% of the surveyed students said that they will vote in the election, the vast majority of whom plan to vote for Biden. About 70% of respondents described themselves as Democrats and about 9% identified as Republicans.
The survey, which ran from Oct. 12 to Oct. 20, garnered 582 responses from the Class of 2021 through the Class of 2024.
When given a list of political issues, respondents cited social issues, the environment, and healthcare as the three issues that are most important to them.
Support for President Donald Trump is highest among students in the Wharton School, with 19.59% of Wharton students indicating they will vote for the 1968 Wharton graduate in the election. Support for Trump is highest among those who consider the economy and foreign policy to be among the three issues most important to them. President Trump frequently touts the pre-COVID-19 economy and his "America First" foreign policy agenda in campaign speeches.
The survey indicated widespread support for Biden in each of the four undergraduate schools. Support for Biden is strongest among students who are concerned with the environment. Biden's climate plan includes moving the United States back into the Paris Climate Accords, investing $400 billion dollars into clean energy research, and establishing new fossil fuel emission targets. Penn students have engaged in notable environmental justice efforts, particularly Fossil Free Penn's repeated push for the University to divest from fossil fuels.
Students expressed mostly negative attitudes about the U.S. government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just over 88% described the American government’s response as either poor or very poor. The U.S. has been criticized for sending mixed messages about mask-wearing, failing to keep up with the demand for COVID-19 tests in the early months of the pandemic, and rushing towards economic re-openings. Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago, told journalist Bob Woodward in early February that he purposely downplayed the severity of the virus which has now infected more than 8.5 million Americans.
Opinions about Penn's handling of the pandemic are lukewarm.
Only 33% of respondents described it as either poor or very poor, with a plurality describing it as "neutral." In response to the pandemic, the University shut down campus in March, moving all classes online for the first time in school history. Penn eventually moved fall semester classes online and initiated a weekly COVID-19 testing program for those who live on or near campus.
The DP additionally broke down opinions about the federal government’s handling of the pandemic by vote choice. The strongest support for the American government’s COVID-19 response comes from Trump supporters, nearly 43% of whom describe the response as "well-handled" or "very well-handled."
On the other hand, over 97% of Biden supporters described the government's response as "poorly handled" or "very poorly handled."
Biden has been sharply critical of Trump's response to the pandemic and, if elected, plans to ask governors to implement mask mandates, increase testing frequency, and increase domestic manufacturing of personal protective equipment.
The survey was distributed through the DP's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, the DP email listserv, and on four class Facebook pages. The sample overrepresents first years, who constitute 35% of all respondents but 25% of the student body, and underrepresents seniors, who constitute 16% of all respondents. It also overrepresents female students, who constitute 65% of the sample.
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