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U. Iowa Area Voters Trusted Obama, Exit Poll Says

This story was written by Katie Hanson, The Daily Iowan

Johnson County voters said they trusted President-elect Barack Obama more than his opponent in virtually every personality quality except experience, according to part of the Hawkeye Poll released Thursday.

Meanwhile, the economy reigned supreme among voters' concerns, with Obama consistently being rated higher than Republican challenger John McCain by voters squeezed by the "credit crunch."

"It's more evidence that the state of the economy drove the election," said University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor David Redlawsk.

Sixty students spent more than three hours each at area precincts conducting exit polls as part of Redlawsk's political-campaigning class, capturing by the end of Tuesday night more than 1,100 urban Johnson County residents' opinions on topics ranging from the election to binge drinking. Redlawsk has been directing such polling since 2000.

Pollsters requested responses from every fourth voter, but UI junior Mark Bowers said a lot more than that wanted to be polled.

"People asked me if they could fill it out anyway, even if I didn't ask them," Bowers said. "I guess people just like expressing their opinions."

The exit poll also asked three questions about local binge drinking: Whether bars should limit access to ages 21 and over, who is responsible for binge drinking, and what priority binge drinking has compared to other issues.

"We've asked this question since 2004, and what's most interesting is that we see a decrease in support for limited bar access and an increased support for lowering the age to 18," Redlawsk said. The results "may be driven by differences in voter turnout," given that more students voted this year than in 2006.

But even though the 21-referendum didn't pass last year, more voters favored limiting access to bars than more lenient options, and respondents wrote students are more responsible for binge drinking than bar owners, the City Council, or the UI.

"A lot of people go to bars whether they have specials or not," said UI junior Zach Hodges, and drink specials and the 19-age requirement at bars encourage drinking.

Hodges said he wasn't sure any plausible solution for binge drinking existed - the city has repeatedly tried to raise the age requirement, failing each time in a public vote.

"People are always going to find a way to drink," he said.

Now, after the poll, Redlawsk's students must churn out a paper based on their polling and volunteer experience.

"I've learned a lot of the insides of how campaigns work," said Bowers, who volunteered with Obama supporters. "It was good to get out and actually talk to voters about issues."

Bowers said the experience was fruitful, but the end of the election process also yields relief.

"I'm just glad it's all over," he said.

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