In an election full of surprises, 22 percent of the votes in Monday’s straw poll at USF did not go to the two major parties, with 94 percent of the 1,046 participants within the ages 18 to 34, according to the released results.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton emerged the victor, getting 53 percent of the vote. Coming in second was Republican candidate Donald Trump at 25 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 9 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 5 percent and the remaining 8 percent of the vote went to the “other” option.
The Senate race results were closer, with Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy getting 43 percent of the vote, Republican candidate Marco Rubio receiving 40 percent, Libertarian candidate Pail Stanton getting 7 percent and the remaining 10 percent falling to the “other” category.
Amendment One, which relates to solar energy, was 53 percent for, 25 percent against and 22 percent needing more information to decide. Amendment Two, the medical marijuana amendment, was 78 percent for, 11 percent against, and 8 percent needing more information to decide.
Amendment Three, which deals with property tax exemptions for totally and permanently disabled first responders, was 66 percent for, 11 percent against and 23 percent needing more information to decide. Amendment Five, which revises an existing property tax exemption for senior citizens who meet specific qualifications, was 38 percent for, 22 percent against and 40 percent needing more information to decide.
Susan MacManus, national political analyst and USF political science professor, said the results met her expectations. She said USF is a more Democratic-leaning campus.
Two big takeaways, she said, were the amount of votes that went to options outside of the two major political parties and the fact that millennial voters are now getting most of their election information from online sources.
Main sources of campaign news were social media at 42 percent, television at 32 percent, newspapers at 22 percent and radio at 4 percent.
Another important thing to note, she said, were the issues deemed most important in the student poll. Economy and jobs came in first at 35 percent, then education at 23 percent, followed by foreign policy and terrorism at 20 percent. Health care came at 12 percent and environment was 10 percent.
“… There was quite a range of opinions about the top issue of concern for the students,” she said. “… The third one, foreign policy, terrorism is somewhat higher than we’re seeing in other polls and I think some of that is driven by the more international student body that we have at USF. People are more aware of foreign policy than on some other college campuses.”
Connor Applegate, a senior majoring in mathematics and biomedical science, said he was glad to see how the straw poll turned out. In comparison to the general population, trends are visible for things that are more relevant to the university population, such as education, he said. Applegate also said he thought the results showed that students are more Green Party-friendly voters compared to the general population, as Stein received 5 percent of the vote.
Jean-Pierre Sorel, a senior majoring in health science, said he wasn’t surprised by Clinton’s victory but said he felt the candidates offered were geared more toward war and capitalism, noting that Socialist Equality Party candidate Jerry White was not on the ballot. Sorel said these candidates do not get as much attention due to publicity and also because certain minor party candidates don’t appear on the ballot in some states.
“It really pertains to the message and what they want to do with the money,” Sorel said. “… If you follow the money you find the truth.”
The demographic that turned out to vote was mostly students at 94 percent. Faculty came in at 4 percent and staff at 2 percent. Voters younger than 18, ages 35 to 49 and ages 50 to 64 were 2 percent each. The majority of participants were white, coming in at 54 percent. Hispanic participants were 19 percent, African-American participants at 12 percent and Asian participants at 8 percent, with the remaining 7 percent identifying themselves as “other.”
Anthony Cilluffo, a class of ’15 alumnus and former Pi Sigma Alpha president, worked the polling station at the campus library and said the student interest there was fantastic. He said the station brought 200 ballots for the day but ended up going through half of those in an hour.
“It has completely blown away my expectations,” he said.
Christina Stange, a junior majoring in political science, volunteered at the MSC polling station and said the location went through 100 ballots in the first 45 minutes. She said traffic to the station came in bursts.
“It’s either hit or miss. You either get 10 to 15 people all at once or people just avoid you,” she said.
Georgia Pevy, president of Pi Sigma Alpha, said the goal was to get 1,000 ballots. That was met, as 1,046 ballots were cast, according to the results released.
Stange said she was hoping for a larger turnout than the last presidential election year straw poll, which was about 1,500, she said.
“But still, the more the merrier,” Stange said.
MacManus thought the turnout varied by location, with the library polling station being the busiest. The online option also saw usage and MacManus said the campus straw poll will continue to use the online component in the future.
Pevy has volunteered with the straw poll before. During the 2014 election she was one of the people with clipboards asking students to fill out ballots. This year she was more involved in the behind the scenes work. She said she thinks the divisiveness of this year’s election is unprecedented and also noted the millennial role in influencing the results of the upcoming election.
“The millennials are coming of age and no one knows really how it’s going to turn out,” she said.
Students participated in the straw poll for a variety of reasons, including curiosity, self-education and the inability to vote in the November election.
“(I voted) because I can’t vote because I’m an international student so this is as close as I can get to like really vote,” said Stefania Alastre, a senior majoring in molecular biology.
Nanda Bose, a junior majoring in economics, voted to add his opinion to the results.
“I think it’d be a good idea to know what people actually think. I wanted to get my opinion out too.”
He said he thinks that this election is not a good one but said it is important to vote.
“If you want to take a stand, that’s the only way,” Bose said.
Yvette Cheesman, a senior majoring in psychology, already sent in her absentee ballot but voted in the straw poll. She said she thinks voting is important because of the controversy surrounding the candidates and the increasing problems facing our nation.
Sophomore and biomedical science major Omar Zuhdi said he voted to give himself an idea of what the voting process will be like before Election Day. Nick Hagreen, a freshman majoring in mass communications, voted of curiosity and boredom.
Cilluffo said the straw poll results are something candidates will look at closely. He said there is no better way to poll millennials on the I-4 corridor. He and Pevy both said the straw poll is also a way to have fun with the election.
“It’s just a fun time for everyone,” Cilluffo said.
MacManus said the straw poll saw lots of evidence of excitement from students about participating in the voting process.
“A lot of students had a lot of fun today,” she said.
Pevy encouraged the use of the straw poll as an educational opportunity for those students who weren’t sure about the amendments. They have 20 days to form an opinion, she said.
Alexis Santoyo, a freshman majoring in political science, said he thinks this year students are dissatisfied with the two major party candidates, referring to Trump as instilling fear and Clinton as out of touch. He said he feels the straw poll is important in identifying trends in young voters using representatives among them.
“As always, we’re the future,” he said.
MacManus said a shift in votes toward third parties could affect Election Day outcomes, especially if the third-party candidate draws from one candidate more than the other, but said turnout for voters interested in third parties would be the determining factor, which she said isn’t a guarantee.
Sorel said he is interested to see what will happen in the 2020 election as he feels there has been a shift toward minor parties. People are more aware, he said.
“Everyone is watching,” Sorel said.