As the primary season for the 2008 presidential election approaches, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the two Democratic frontrunners, are engaged in a tight race in some states as they pursue their party's nomination. But a Herald poll conducted earlier this month paints a different picture on Brown University's campus.
The Herald poll showed Obama as the clear favorite among undergraduates, with 37.5 percent of students saying they think he would make the best president, compared to 18.4 percent of students who said they back Clinton. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina came in third, with 5.6 percent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas led among Republican candidates, with 3.1 percent of students saying they think he would make the best president.
The poll was conducted from Nov. 5 through Nov. 7 and has a 3.9 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 621 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which was administered as a written questionnaire to students in the University Post Office at Faunce House and in the Sciences Library.
Miguel Blancarte '09, a political science concentrator and Clinton supporter, said it was "no surprise that a Democrat leads The Herald's poll, and it was also not surprising that Obama was the number-one choice for Brown students. His tactic of targeting college students seems to be very successful."
Jenna Silver '10, a member of Students for Obama, said, "Rarely is there a day I can cross the Main Green without spotting at least one 'Obama '08' button displayed prominently."
Silver said she believes the results of The Herald's poll would be similar to those found on other campuses around the country.
"Obama is receiving huge amounts of support from students throughout the nation," she said. "When national polls are conducted, they can be misleading in their results because of the people they are polling. Students' opinions are rarely properly assessed because they aren't deemed 'likely voters' and because many don't have landline (phones)."But Marc Frank '09, president of the College Republicans, disputed the poll's accuracy.
"Brown is not a random sample of the population as a whole," he said. "(The Herald poll) didn't seem like random sampling. It was bias right off the bat and should have read 'not a scientific poll' up on top just as CNN announces theirs on their Web site."
Frank, who said he plans to vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2008, said he felt the Republican voice on campus was muffled in the poll.
"I don't think (the poll) represents Republicans here at all," he said.
Under national guidelines, according to Frank, the Brown GOP chapter cannot endorse any particular candidate until after the primaries. But, Frank said, based on his conversations with group members, Romney, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are the top picks.
In The Herald's poll, Romney ranked second among Republican candidates, with 2.7 percent of students saying they think he would make the best president. Giuliani came in third, with 1.8 percent, and McCain garnered only one percent of students' vote for best presidential candidate.
Blancarte said he thinks the poll results only reflected campus opinion, not that of the entire country.
"I personally feel that Senator Clinton is currently viewed as the number one candidate. However, as the primaries get near, the spot for the number one candidate within the Democratic Party will fluctuate greatly," Blancarte said.
Clinton has continually ranked first in most national opinion polls of Democratic voters. In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Nov. 1-5, she had the support of 47 percent of Democrts.
The Herald poll found that 16.6 percent of the undergraduate student body had not yet chosen a candidate to support.
"There are things about all of the candidates in the race that I really love and support, and things that I don't find so endearing. Hopefully as the primaries approach, I will know who I support," wrote Gabriel Kussin '09, president of the Brown Democrats, in an e-mail to The Herald.
The Brown Democrats, like their Republican counterpart, will not endorse a specific candidate until after the primaries. But, through student groups such as those supporting Obama and Clinton, students have been making weekly trips to New Hampshire to campaign for their candidates.
"While I believe The Herald's poll to be accurate, I think Brown students shouldn't be afraid to stand up and support the candidate of their choice simply because they are polling in smaller numbers," Kussin said.
© 2007 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE