Judging from the tone of political T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers around campus — not to mention the Oct. 20 straw poll — it seems most USF students have a preferred presidential candidate come Election Day — Sen. Barack Obama.
Though USF students — along with their collegiatepeers across the country — tend to favor the Democratic candidate, it’s unclear whether support of Obama extends to every demographic on campus, particularly Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students.
Members of the armed forces tend to favor the GOP candidate, said Susan MacManus, professor and political analyst. But in this election, she said, it’s possible this tendency is changing among service members and ROTC participants alike.
An exit poll in The New York Times showed that 36 percent of people with military experience are voting for presidential candidate John McCain. And when it comes to ROTC voters, according to the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, an Associated Press-Edwin Media Research exit poll found that these students bring a variety of opinions to the polls.
This array of allegiances is apparent in USF’s ROTC students.
Ann-Marie Annicelli, an Air Force ROTC participant and senior majoring in international studies, said she plans to vote for Obama — but not for military reasons.
Annicelli said her decision is based on her international studies coursework and where that will carry her in terms of future jobs. She said Obama is moving in the same direction her education is taking her, and that she agrees with Obama’s call for dialogue with controversial foreign leaders. Annicelli said she would one day like to be a part of these dialogues.
Thomas Mooney, a cadet in the Army ROTC and sophomore majoring in history and philosophy, said that diplomacy affects how those in the military vote. He plans on voting for Obama.
“If the current military voting trends are a reflection of fact, I think it is representative of how the military feels about the position we’ve been placed in, insofar as international affairs,” Mooney said.
Mooney — who said that in most ways he is a “rather fierce Independent” — said he is considering voting for Obama because he does not like what he sees as negative campaigning by McCain.
“I think our political system would be better off if it went beyond the negativity and pointless attacks used by both sides,” he said.
MacManus said it’s common for Americans — ROTC or civilian — to vote based on how they feel about a candidate as opposed to specific issues.
Annicelli, who spent five years in Iraq, also said that veterans and ROTC students might not have drastically different views on issues, as she is both a veteran and ROTC herself.
“In any kind of group — veteran or not — there will be a variety of opinions,” said Annicelli, “In my opinion, it does not matter if they are a veteran or not — what matters is how one interprets their services,” she said.
MacManus said there are several reasons for differences of opinion among the ROTC students.
“Some suggest that the pattern may be changing this time because of the controversial war,” she said. “There are longer tours of active duty military in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has meant that some families are rethinking voting Republican.”