The results are in: Barack Obama and Ron Paul are the favorites among USF students, according to the USF straw poll. Students also approved of Amendment I, which garnered a “yes” from 44 percent of voters, and considered the economy/jobs the most important factor in selecting the presidential candidate.
The straw poll was sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honors society, the Honors College and Student Government to get a feel for how young voters will vote in the Jan. 29 primaries.
Professor Susan MacManus, distinguished professor of political science and adviser to Pi Sigma Alpha, was pleased with this year’s turnout. A record number of 1,782 students participated in the poll.
“It is absolutely the most excitement that we have seen about any election in all the years I have been here at USF, and that’s 20 (years),” said MacManus.
The poll conducted for the 2006 gubernatorial elections drew about 800 participants. MacManus attributes the increase of student participation to the number of polling sites. In the past there were usually only two, one near the Marshall Center and another at Cooper Hall – this year there were seven.
There were mixed reactions to Paul winning on the Republican side, according to Robert Armstead, a senior political science and engineering major and the recruiting officer of Pi Sigma Alpha. Paul came in first with 24 percent, then John McCain with 22 percent, followed by Mike Huckabee with 21 percent.
“One of the biggest surprises was the win by Ron Paul on the Republican side. But Ron Paul has a very large presence within the young population,” said Armstead. “We have a very large support of Ron Paul here, (that) we can see on the campus daily. And so it was a surprise, but it’s not a surprise.”
MacManus wasn’t surprised.
“He’s a maverick candidate,” she said. “He appeals a lot to college students. He is a government-out-of-my-way kind of guy.”
On the Democratic side, Obama won with 54 percent, Hillary Clinton trailed with 33 percent and John Edwards was third with 8 percent.
“I think he (Obama) has been doing well amongst young voters,” said Armstead. “He has a very strong appeal among young voters, as a matter of fact, we believe he is giving young voters a reason to vote.”
All of the candidates were invited to have supporters come to campus. According to Sarah Pheiffer, a sophomore nursing major who was stationed in the Marshall Center, an Obama supporter taped posters on Paul’s signs. She said they probably did this since they didn’t have anywhere else to put them, because USF wouldn’t allow them to tape anything to the structures or tables. However, a supporter of Paul’s came and tore down the Obama posters.
“If you are coming to USF, you need to bring stakes to put in the ground. That is the moral lesson that everyone learned,” Pheiffer said.
The beginning of the day was slow and disappointing, according to Sarah Saunders, a junior in political science.
“People are a little cranky this morning,” said Saunders. “Some people said they didn’t know there was a primary coming up, some said they don’t know of anyone who’s running for president and then some said they don’t vote because they don’t care.”
MacManus believes the overwhelming turnout shows that USF students care about politics, however.
“This is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and the students are willingly filling (ballots) out and expressing their opinions and talking about things, which is exactly one of the things we hoped for,” said MacManus. “It tells (those) outside USF that young people are interested in politics.”