Kerry leads USF straw poll

Not only has John Kerry won the Democratic primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, but he has come out on top in the USF straw poll as well.

Thirty percent of respondents who selected a Democratic nominee said they would vote for the Massachusetts senator if the 2004 Democratic primary were held today. Howard Dean polled second with 20 percent; followed by Joe Lieberman, 10 percent; Wesley Clark, 8 percent; John Edwards, 7 percent; Al Sharpton, 6 percent; and Dennis Kucinich with 3 percent. Sixteen percent said none of the above.

The poll also suggested that whoever wins the Democratic nomination may be able to count on significant support among college-age voters, with 59 percent saying they would vote for the Democratic Party nominee if the election were held today. Only 26 percent said they would vote for President George W. Bush. Eight percent said they would vote for an independent candidate, 4 percent said a third party candidate and 3 percent said none of the above.

More than 800 students, faculty and staff members filled out the nine-question survey. They supplied information about their party affiliation, whom they would vote for if the election were held today, how the Sept. 11 attacks have affected their involvement in politics and national issues, as well as other questions regarding some of the participants’ personal information.

“It was a good turnout and there was lots of enthusiasm,” said Susan MacManus, a USF political science professor and a political analyst.

On party identification, 55 percent said they identified with Democrats, while 24 percent identified with Republicans, 8 percent with other political parties (Green, Libertarian, Reform, etc.) and 13 percent as no party at all.

The poll, which was sponsored by USF Student Government and Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, was conducted Tuesday at three locations (Russell M. Cooper Hall, the Phyllis P. Marshall Center and the Edgar W. Kopp Engineering) building during the course of five hours.

At the straw poll, representatives of three political candidates were present to inform students about the candidate running for president. Campaign supporters for Dean, Bush and Kerry were distributing flyers, talking politics and getting people register to vote.

“We want them (at the poll) to really motivate students. Besides our decorations, we want people to see individuals out there trying to get people to vote for their candidate for president. We think that’s going to really raise morale and spirit and people are going to participate,” said Ryan Caruso, Student Government senate president.

MacManus said it was the first time that the poll was made available to the engineering students by having a station setup near the engineering building. “They tend to miss out on campus activities by Cooper and the Marshall Center,” MacManus said.

Patience Clarke, who was working at the Bush/Cheney table, said she saw many young people who were excited about the election.

“Twenty million young people can make a difference in this election and we are here to get them involved,” Clarke said.

At the Kerry table, frisbees and little foam balls with Kerry’s name were flying around while students stopped to check out information. Lauren Hallahan, the Northern Tier Coordinator, said her table had an excellent turnout and that many students stopped by her table to grab information and promotional items for their parents.

At the Dean table, Rae Pease, a school teacher of 30 years from Connecticut, said they were targeting thinkers.

“(Dean) brings hope to me. He considers American people as his special-interest group,” Pease said.

This poll is the third sponsored by the USF Student Government and Pi Sigma Alpha. The straw poll was originally devised by MacManus and Caruso and ran prior to the 2000 presidential election. A second poll was held for the 2002 gubernatorial election and another is scheduled for November before the 2004 Presidential election.

The results of the USF straw poll were also featured on Channel 10 News, a CBS affiliate, The Associated Press, two radio stations, WUSF and WFLA, as well as other local media outlets.