USF straw poll results match Florida voters

The results are in, and according to the straw poll conducted Tuesday on campus, the political awareness and voting preferences of USF students, faculty and staff seem to fall in line with Florida voters.

“If there’s a doubt that USF looks like Florida, this has eliminated that doubt,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at USF and adviser for Pi Sigma Alpha, the political honor society.

The straw poll survey results show that out of the 777 students, faculty and staff polled, 44 percent would vote for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and vice presidential candidate John Edwards and 45 percent for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Twelve percent were undecided; 1 percent would vote for Ralph Nader and 1 percent for minor party tickets such as those from the Green, Socialist and Libertarian parties.

Seventy-one percent of participants expressed that they were “very likely” to vote in this upcoming presidential election, while 5 percent chose “somewhat likely” and 2 percent chose “not very likely.”

In the U.S. Senate election, 41 percent said they would vote for Betty Castor and 39 percent for Mel Martinez.

In a poll of Florida released Oct. 7 from Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Bush leads Kerry by 7 points. Fifty-one percent of 717 potential voters polled Oct. 1-5 favored Bush, while Kerry was favored by 44 percent. Nader drew less than 1 percent.

“Anyone who thinks they can predict what’s going to happen doesn’t have a clue,” said Kevin Hettinger, a member of Student Government and Pi Sigma Alpha. “It was pretty dead-on with the Florida population.”

Sunburned and tired, Hettinger spent his whole day helping conduct the survey. He observed that students were either apathetic or excited about the poll.

“Just as many students who voted is just as many (who) didn’t care at all,” Hettinger said.

Despite the sporadic bouts of Bush and Kerry protests, operations ran smoothly, said Amber Davis, president of Pi Sigma Alpha.

“A lot of people didn’t even know about the amendments,” Davis said, explaining that students were confused about the meanings of the eight proposed constitutional amendments.

However, the confusion over the meaning of the amendments did not stop students from voicing their opinions, Davis said. When asked on the poll what was the most important issue to students in the 2004 election, 21 percent said Homeland Security/War on Terrorism; 16 percent said the situation in Iraq; 24 percent said the economy and jobs; 15 percent said education and 12 percent said moral issues.

Sixty-eight percent of the participants were 24 or younger. Sixty-eight percent of the voters expect the turnout rate of younger voters will rise.

The poll also indicated that 66 percent of participants plan to watch the last presidential debate tonight.

However, 50 percent of participants do not think the two presidential candidates effectively target young voters.

“The closeness of the race on campus represents the closeness of the race in the state’s votes,” said MacManus. “That should be a good incentive for students to go out and vote.”