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N.C. State Class Survey Reveals Near Tie In Presidential Election

This story was written by James Layman, Technician

A North Carolina State University Campaigns and Elections class polled students on political opinions and the ideological factors of voter registration, and Michael Cobb, the associate professor of political science who teaches the class, said the presidential results were neck-and-neck.

"Obama and McCain are in a dead heat on campus," Cobb said. "McCain has 51 percent and Obama has 49 percent."

Based on the sample group, Cobb said he believes the survey is an accurate representation of what students on campus believe.

"We surveyed 377 students on campus, and, based on the demographics, I'm fairly confident that this is what all N.C. State students think, not just a particular group," Cobb said. "At a sample size of 377, there's still a margin of error close to plus or minus five percent. In an ideal world, we would have had 600 to 1,000 responses, but it just didn't happen."

Cobb said he formed the survey with two goals in mind. One was an academic investigation, and the other was to find students political preferences.

"For the academic portion, we wanted to figure out what makes some students more or less likely to be registered to vote, want to register or plan on voting," Cobb said. "Students that know facts about the government and how it operates, they were more likely to vote. We found the same thing with students who saw voting as a duty."

Travis Hargett, a sophomore in forest management in Cobb's class, said students in the class asked others trivia questions about the government, and there is a relationship between how much a student knows and what they feel about voting.

"We asked questions about current senators or the House of Representatives," Hargett said. "We found the more they knew, the more likely they were to vote. This didn't really surprise me, considered students typically don't know a lot about government, and it's proven that students are the least likely to come and vote."

For the second part of the investigation, Cobb said he wanted to see which candidates students on campus supported. Classmates asked students their opinion on the presidential candidates as well as the top two state offices: governor and U.S. Senate. While the survey showed the presidential candidates were close to a tie, it showed something very different for the race for governor, in which Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory and Democrat Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue compete, and the Senate race between incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole and Democrat Kay Hagan.

"McCrory and Dole are absolutely clobbering Purdue and Hagan," he said.

Democrats who are voting for Obama are much less likely to vote for the democratic candidates in the state offices, according to Cobb. On the other hand, people who support McCain are more likely to straight-ticket vote.

"People know they're excited for the presidential election, they're going to vote for Obama, but they don't know anything or don't care about the lower positions," Cobb said. "McCain is doing a better job of holding on to his supporters and providing a coattail downward so that McCrory and Dole are likely to benefit from McCain supporters coming out to vote."

Cobb's study also looked at turnout of young voters. The data the class acquired gave Cobb a few theories on turnout, he said.

"It's all a big cycle," Cobb said. "If students don't vote in the election, candidates aren't going to care about the issues concerning college students. At the same time, if candidates don't focus on issues affecting young voters, young voters aren't going to vote because they think their opinion doesn't matter."

Hargett said he believes students don't typicaly vote because the issues discussed in the campaigns don't affect them as much as older voters.

"A lot of it is because the big issues don't necessarily concern us," Hargett said. "Students don't pay mortgages or a lot of taxes. Students just don't see why they should vote if the issues don't affect them."

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