Watch CBSN Live

Poll: Students In Battleground States Support Obama, Plan To Vote

This story was written by Andy Kroll,
As presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama begin their final week on the campaign trail, each is pushing hard in the election's remaining swing states to deliver them a victory on November 4.

A new CBS News/UWIRE/The Chronicle of Higher Education poll of college students in four swing states shows Obama with a significant lead in youth support which could help him win the election.

Of the nearly 25,000 students polled at four-year colleges and universities in Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania,more than60 percent in each state preferred the Obama-Biden ticket to McCain-Palin.

Regardless of which candidate they support,more than90 percent of these students said they planned to vote in the election.

Not surprisingly, a majority of the students praised Obama for his qualities as a presidential candidate, saying that he's someone they can relate to, that he'll bring about more change and that the Illinois senator will improve young people's lives as well as improve the U.S.'s image in the world.

However, in these four swing states it's possible doubts still linger among young people over Obama's experience, as almost 70 percent of students said McCain would make a more effective commander-in-chief.

Still, the 47-year-old Obama's message of change came through clearly in the poll. While over 60 percent of students said McCain was a "typical Republican," over 50 percent said Obama is a "different kind of Democrat."

And while over 40 percent of students said McCain's age (he's 72) would make his Presidency more difficult, just as many said Obama's age would give him fresh new ideas as president.

As for students' support for the candidate for whom they intended to vote, over 50 percent of Obama supporters said they enthusiastically supported him, while the majority of McCain backers said they supported him with reservations.

In an election in which gender figured largely, women polled in the four swing states reported more support for the Democratic ticket, with almost 68 percent of women selecting Obama-Biden. Just under 60 percent of men chose the Democratic ticket.

In their opinions of the vice presidential candidates, students in the four swing states were explicitly clear.

Over 30 percent said they really liked Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and the majority believed Obama selected Biden because of his qualifications.

With Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, a majority said they "[d]on't much like" Palin. What's more, over 70 percent of students believed McCain selected Palin not for her qualifications, but because she would help him win the election.

The year of the youth vote

Much has been made of the role and importance of young Americans--Millenials, Gen-Nexters, call them what you will--in the current presidential election. Time magazine even went so far as to call 2008 "The Year of the Youth Vote."

This was seen in the CBS News/UWIRE/The Chronicle of Higher Education poll, as almost 90 percent of students polled, regardless of which candidate they supported, reported some level of engagement in current election.

Even more impressively, over 90 percent of students in all four swing states said they were registered to vote at the time of the poll, which took place from October 6 to 19. And of these registered voters, over 90 percent said they plan to vote in the election, either in person or by absentee ballot.

With an estimated 50 million young people eligible to vote in November, this presidential election will usher in a new generation of voters in this country. This was evident among young people polled in the four swing states, as anywhere rom 59 percent to 74 percent said they will be voting for the first time in November or had voted for the first time earlier this year.

Included in the touting of "The Year of the Youth Vote" has been how technologically savvy and "wired" this young generation of voters is.

Over 60 percent of students polled said they watched election videos on YouTube or visited a candidate's Web page. And while TV ranks as the primary source of political information for young people in the poll (nearly 80 percent mentioned "TV News"), second on the list of sources of political information was "Internet news sites," with between 77 percent and 80 percent of students going online for their news.

Money matters

As college students read about the economy's 6 percent unemployment rate and a loss of 159,000 jobs last month, it's hardly surprising that over 70 percent of students in these four swing states listed "Economy and jobs" as the most important issues in their voting decision.

When asked to rate the U.S. economy, over 90 percent of students said the economy was "fairly bad" or "very bad."

As economic issues dominate the rhetoric on the campaign trail, a large majority of these students (61 percent in Pennsylvania, 56 percent in Ohio, 58 percent in North Carolina and 61 percent in Colorado) said Obama had the best plan to resolve the country's economic woes. Between 23 percent and 28 percent said McCain had thebest economic plan.

Yet despite the country's sputtering economy, student still reported confidence in their prospects on the job market. Nearly 80 percent in all four states said they were confident in getting job after college.

On the issue of higher education, economic worries again were of great importance.

More than any other issue, the majority of students polled said that controlling costs associated with going to college was extremely important.

Political affiliation

Of the students polled in the four states, there were slightly more women than men (51 percent in Pennsylvania, 52 percent in Ohio, 58 percent in North Carolina and 54 percent in Colorado).

Slightly more students described themselves as Democrats (48 percent in Pennsylvania, 40 percent in Ohio, 43 percent in North Carolina and 40 percent in Colorado) than Republicans (26 percent, 30 percent, 29 percent and 24 percent, respectively). A significant amount of students rejected any party affiliation at all, describing themselves as Independents (25 percent, 29 percent, 27 percent and 35 percent respectively).

In terms of ideologies, just over 40 percent in each state said they were moderates; between 35 percent and 41 percent said they were liberals; and between 16 percent and 23 percent said they were conservatives.

View CBS News In