Springfield, Ohio — For students at America's colleges, today's presidential election will be their first, including at Wittenberg University, where students recently joined with 25,000 students in four battleground states to participate in a poll sponsored by CBS News, UWIRE (a news service powered by student journalists at more than 800 colleges) and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The thousands of students in a representative sample of four-year colleges in four states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Colorado – were contacted in an effort to investigate and understand the political views of young voters. The results indicate that students in these four states are more alike than they are different, and not just in their overall preference for president (six in 10 favor Barack Obama). At Wittenberg, specifically, slightly more than 62 percent of students polled plan to vote for Obama, while 27 percent plan to vote for John McCain. The poll also shows that at Wittenberg, for example, 60 percent of those polled will vote for the same candidate as their parents.
Interest in this campaign is also high among college students in these four states: about half are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, and most say the outcome of the election matters. Many say that if Obama becomes president it will make a difference in their lives.
Like adults nationwide, the college students polled are concerned about the economy, which is the top issue for them. Many have been motivated by registration drives from their schools or from the campaigns themselves. They are more likely to get their news from non-traditional sources like the Internet and talk shows rather than newspapers and magazines, although television news also matters.
For the last five years, Wittenberg has actually subscribed to The New York Times through the newspaper's innovative Knowledge Network, giving students an increased awareness of national and world affairs.
Students at Wittenberg have also enjoyed other opportunities to engage in the political process. Hannah Johnson, class of 2009, and president of Wittenberg's College Democrats and president of Ohio College Democrats, attended the College Democrats of America convention in Denver in August, where she joined college party chairs from Miami, Ohio State and Kent State universities, as well as the University of Findlay. The convention's proximity to the Democratic National Convention allowed the student democrats to hear many of the speakers in other venues.
Additionally, Wittenberg is hosting an Election Prediction Contest, the student winner of which will receive a trip to the presidential inauguration in January, as well as an Election Night Party in the university's dining facility.
Wittenberg was one of 12 universities in Ohio involved with the CBS News/UWIRE ground-breaking poll of undergraduate students in the four battleground states. To conduct the poll, CBS News and UWIRE enlisted the assistance of Cornell University's Survey Research Institute, which programmed and hosted the questionnaire on the web. Participating colleges and universities or the Cornell Survey Research Institute emailed invitations to participate to random samples of their students.
Written By: Karen Gerboth