Students favor Crist in straw poll
Republicans may want to consider paying attention to youth in the weeks leading up to the Florida elections.
According to the straw poll conducted Tuesday, USF students favor Charlie Crist over Rick Scott by 20 percentage points in the race for governor.
In further fortune for the Florida Democratic party, all the Democrats running for cabinet positions were favored by an approximate average of 8 percent.
But before the Democrats pop the champagne, they need to figure out whether millennials actually care enough to go out and vote.
Poll overseer Susan MacManus, a political science professor at USF, said there was a sizeable portion of those polled who said they didn’t care for any candidate. Younger voters struggle to identify with the gubernatorial candidates and are sick of hearing about them.
“There’s been an oversaturation of negative ads on the governor’s race for months now,” she said. “Negative ads really offend younger voters.”
What could bring out youth, however, is the medical marijuana legalization amendment.
“The premise early on, by some, was that putting such an amendment on the ballot would spike youth turnout,” MacManus said. “It was true that more people voted on that than on the governor race.”
MacManus, however, said she was surprised that only 70 percent favored legalizing medical marijuana, given the presumption that everyone in college likes pot.
To figure out how to rally young voters, election supervisors could look at the straw poll for where students are getting their campaign news, MacManus said.
Though television led the pack at 39 percent, social media is slowly closing the gap at 31 percent.
“It explains why campaigning costs so much,” she said. “You have to spend so much money in all these media markets.”
While those polled felt they hear enough about Crist and Scott, they don’t always feel informed about other names and issues on the ballot.
Those who took the poll tended to go down party lines when selecting cabinet members.
“It reflects the polarization of the country,” she said. “Five or 10 years ago, people were split-ticket voters.”
MacManus also said students asked administrators what the amendments meant, especially Amendment 3, which 51 percent said they didn’t understand.
The amendment conserving water and land was approved by 65 percent. MacManus said this reflects an expanding environmental consciousness.
“Florida is definitely a more pro-environment state than others,” she said. “Our beaches, our coasts, our springs appeal to people.”
Another trend captured in the straw poll was decreasing identification with the Republican or Democratic Party. Of those polled, 7 percent identified with the Libertarian Party and 29 percent did not affiliate with any party.
MacManus said social scientists will pay close attention to shifts like these and how they will affect elections.
While those polled were USF students, faculty and staff, MacManus said the straw poll reflects the demographic makeup of Florida campuses and the state at large.