Poll: Students are concerned about the state of the nation; Biden currently leads on campus

Most Augustana students are concerned about the state of the country, and those that show the highest concern are more likely to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to a recent poll conducted by a government class on Elections, Public Opinion & Media.

When asked their level of concern about the state of the country with 1 being lowest and 10 being highest, 61.7% of the respondents chose an 8, 9 or 10. 

“That’s not always a bad thing because that means that people care,” said senior Sheldon Jensen who helped analyze poll data. “If that concern turns to apathy, that’s when trouble really starts to brew.”

About 82% of those who marked their level of concern at 10 said they would vote for Biden if they were to vote the day they took the poll. 

The survey received responses from 638 students between Sept. 25 and 27. Students were asked questions about the 2020 elections and relevant political issues, along with several identification questions like academic year, gender identity, major(s), home state and ethnicity.

Former Vice President Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have the edge over Republican and current President Donald Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, among Augustana students. 

Just over 57% of respondents said that if they were to vote on the day they took the poll, it would be for the Democratic ticket, while exactly 25% said that they would vote Republican. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.85 percentage points.

Data compiled by GOVT 335 class. Graphic created by Noah Wicks.

Of the 25% who expressed support for Trump, about 72% identified as either strong or moderate Republicans and about 23% were independent with a Republican lean. Only 3.8% of those who supported Trump had marked that they were completely independent. No respondents from the Democratic side of the aisle indicated support for Trump.

In contrast, more respondents crossed party lines to express support for Biden. Of the students who supported Biden, over 59% identified as strong or moderate Democrats, while 36% were independent or Democratic leaning. Just over 4% of Biden’s supporters labeled themselves as either independents that lean Republican or moderate Republicans. 

Students who identify as independent tend to favor Biden over Trump. Just over 37% of independents said they would vote for Biden, while 9.7% supported Trump. 

The Libertarian ticket of Jo Jorgensen and Jeremy “Spike” Cohen drew support from people on both sides of the political aisle. Just over 4% of students said that they would vote for the Libertarian ticket, and these respondents identified under all political party choices, except for strong Democrat and strong Republican.

A total of 44 respondents, or 6.92% of the total sample, were undecided on their preferred candidate. Thirteen respondents preferred not to answer, 11 did not plan on voting and eight did not have an opinion. Seven were not eligible to vote.

One respondent wrote that they would vote for the candidate from the Green Party if he or she was in the election, but if not they would vote for Biden. Another said that they were not voting, but they’d choose Biden if they were. One wrote in support for Kanye West, who is running as a third-party candidate.

Top issues for Augustana students are climate change, economy, racial injustice and COVID-19 response

There appears to be no single issue that Augustana students find most important when considering the 2020 presidential election, but four of the 11 are at the top. 

“The spread for people’s top issues—it was kind of all over the place,” said senior poll analyst Rebekah Fyfe. “There wasn’t any one thing that was way above everything else as for people were most concerned about.”

Data compiled by GOVT 335 class. Graphic created by Noah Wicks.

Just over 19% of respondents said that they felt climate change was the most important issue to them, while nearly 17% said it was the economy, a little over 16% said it was racial injustice and exactly 16% said it was COVID-19 response. 

About 9% of respondents felt that healthcare was the most important issue to them in the election, 8.65% said the Supreme Court was the most important, 3.04% said it was gender equality and 2.72% said it was foreign policy. Gun rights and trade were listed by eight people and three people, respectively. 

“I think that’s one question that was just kind of, not necessarily surprising to me, but just reassuring that even though this year seems super weird, people are still concerned about everything,” Jensen said. “It makes it seem, I guess, like a little bit more of a normal election.”

The majority of students agree that steps need to be taken toward climate change. When asked if the U.S. should be more active in environmental conservation and climate change solutions, just over 88% of students said that they believe that the U.S. needs to be more active. A little over 10% said that current level of activity is adequate and 1.7% said that the U.S. should be less active. 

Over three-quarters of students said that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, while only about 13% of students do not support it to some degree. Just under 50% of respondents said that they fully support the movement, while a little over 28% said that they mostly support it. Exactly 8.4% of students were indifferent towards the movement, while the same amount mostly did not support it. Nearly 5% said that they fully did not support the movement.

Over half of the students surveyed supported having access to affordable health care regardless of insurance coverage, while 27% mostly supported it, 11.2% were indifferent, 6.5% mostly do not support it and 1.6% fully do not support it. 

Party affiliation impacts confidence in federal COVID-19 response, but not the university’s response 

Students are more confident in the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic than in the federal government’s response and those wary of the latter were more likely to vote for the Democratic ticket.

Data compiled by GOVT 335 class. Graphic created by Noah Wicks.

Exactly 73.6% of students who responded to the poll said they were either “not at all confident” or “not too confident” in the federal government’s approach to the pandemic. In comparison, 81.3% of respondents said that they were either “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that Augustana is doing a good job in responding to COVID-19 and 76.3% said they either strongly favored or mostly favored the university’s approach. 

Of the 42.9% of respondents who said that they were “not at all confident” in the federal response to the pandemic, 63.3% voted for the Democratic ticket. On the other side of the issue, none of the 4.4% of respondents who were “very confident” voted for the Democratic ticket. However, 15.1% did vote for the Republican one. 

“It doesn’t necessarily show the support of, Donald Trump himself, but it kind of shows how people might view his actions based on their political views,” Fyfe said. “Because when we looked at Augustana’s response to COVID, it didn’t have the same drastic party differences.”

Students with strong political affiliations are more likely to vote

Most of the students who were polled are planning to vote, but those who identify as either strong Democrats or strong Republicans indicated the highest likelihoods of voting. 

Nearly 72% of respondents said that they were absolutely certain that they would vote and little less than 19% of respondents said that they were fairly certain they would vote. In addition, about 58% plan to vote by mail or absentee ballot and about 24% plan to vote in-person on election day. A total of 18 students were ineligible to vote. 

Ninety-three percent of students identified as strong Democrats and 85% of those reported as strong Republicans were certain they would vote. No students who identified as a strong Democrat or a strong Republican said that they were absolutely or fairly certain they would not vote.

Campus sample is “pretty good,” but still has flaws

While the survey captured the views of 38.7% of Augustana’s students, there are still flaws with the sample.

“It’s not a perfect representative sample, but I think it was pretty good for how we sent out the poll just to everybody,” Fyfe said. “Since there’s some self-selection bias and non-response bias overall, I think it wasn’t too bad.”

An email with the Google Forms survey was sent to 1,646 students across campus. All responses were voluntary and anonymous.

A significant gender gap exists among those who participated in the survey: 71.1% respondents identified as female, while males made up 26.4% of the survey’s respondents and 1.1% identified as non-binary. However, Augustana’s female population is larger at 63% than its male population at 47%, according to information reported by the university.

Undergraduate students in each of the four academic standings made up roughly the same percentage of total responses with 18.9% being freshmen, 23.3% being sophomores, 24.5% being juniors, 28.8% being seniors. A little over 4% of respondents were in their fifth year or higher. 

Biology majors made up 17.05% of the sample, nursing majors accounted for 15.9% and education majors made up 10.66%. Business administration majors and government majors followed at 8.85% and 5.90%, respectively. 

Nearly half of respondents were from South Dakota, while 25.99% were from Minnesota, 7.13% were from Iowa and 6.5% were from Nebraska. A little over 87% of respondents identified as Caucasian, while 2.51% of respondents identified as Asian, 1.73% identified as being Black or Africa, 1.57% identified as both Caucasian and Hispanic/Latinx, and 1.41% identified as Hispanic/Latinx. 

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