A final campus poll conducted just one week before election day found that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has the edge over Republican President Donald Trump among Augustana students.
The poll, conducted by a government class on Elections, Public Opinion, and the Media, also found that most students believe there will not be a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election. Students are more likely to label Biden as “compassionate” and Trump as “straightforward,” and students trust Biden more on issues like COVID-19 response, climate change and racial injustice. Finally, a majority of Augustana students get their information online.
Just over 66% of the 516 students surveyed said if they were to vote on the day they responded to the poll, they would have chosen Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. About 23% would have voted for Trump, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Two previous campus polls also found Biden leading significantly among Augustana students. The first, conducted from Sept. 25 to 27 found that about 57% of respondents supported Biden, while 25% said they would vote for Trump. The second, which received results between Oct. 8 and 12, found that approximately 66% favored Biden, while about 24% supported Trump.
“The first poll had a lower percentage for Joe Biden, but the last two polls, it was pretty similar, like about 66% for both of them,” said junior Rebekah Fyfe, who helped analyze the data. “So, I think it’s enough to say that the campus as a whole is leading more toward Biden by a fairly significant amount.”
About 3% of respondents said they would vote for the Libertarian ticket, while 0.6% said they would vote for the Green Party candidates. Exactly 3.5% of students were undecided, 1.8% were not planning to vote and 1.6% were not eligible to vote.
Students who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning were less likely than those that identified as Republican or Republican-leaning to cross party lines when voting. Just under 96% of students who identified as strong Democrats said they would vote for Biden, while 2.04% supported Trump and 1.02% favored Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. About 94% of those who identified as moderate Democrats and 86% of those who identified as Democratic-leaning independents said they would vote for Biden. Less than 1% of students who identified as moderate Democrats said they would vote for Trump, while 2.65% of Democratic-leaning independents said they would vote for Trump.
About 96% of students who identified as strong Republicans said they would vote for Trump, while 3.45% left the question blank. Just over 83% of students who identified as moderate Republicans said they would vote for Trump, while more than 7% said they would vote for Biden, 4% supported Jo Jorgensen and about 1% favored Hawkins. Only 60% of Republican-leaning independents said they would vote for Trump, while about 20% favored Biden and 6% supported Jorgensen.
Students who identified as independent were more likely to vote for Biden than for Trump, with 61% supporting Biden, 6% supporting Jorgensen and 2% supporting Trump. About 42% of voters who identified themselves as being from a third party said they would support Jorgensen, while 28% were not voting, 14% were ineligible to vote and 14% favored Biden.
Most students believe there will not be a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 elections
When asked if they feared there would not be a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 elections, approximately 66% of students answered “yes”. Just over 19% marked the “no” option, 12.5% said they were unsure and 2.1% had no opinion.
About 43% of the students who said they would vote for Trump also said they feared there will not be a peaceful transfer of power, while 76% of Biden supporters and 37% of Jorgensen supporters said the same thing. Only about 36% of those who support Trump said they do not fear there will not be a peaceful transfer of power, while 12% of Biden supporters and 31% of Jorgensen supporters said the same thing.
Just over half of students believe the candidates represent their views
Approximate 54% of students surveyed said they believe the candidates they have to choose from represent their views, while 26.9% do not think their views are represented. About 13% are unsure and 5% have no opinion.
About 67% of the students who favor Trump believe the candidates represent their views. Approximately 13% believe they do not, 12% were unsure and 6% had no opinion.
More than 55% of the students who expressed support for Biden also said they believed their views were represented by the current candidates. About 27% said they did not believe their views were represented, while 12% were unsure and just under 4% had no opinion.
The students who said they would vote for Jorgensen are more likely to indicate that their views are not supported by the candidates. Just over 56% said their views are not supported, while 37% said their views were and 6.25% were unsure.
About 88% of students who said they were not voting also said the candidates do not represent their views, while 11% said the opposite.
Biden labeled by most as “compassionate,” while Trump is “straightforward”
When asked to use select one of six different character traits — compassion, honesty, integrity, ownership, straightforwardness and trustworthiness — to describe both Biden and Trump, students were more inclined to describe the former as compassionate and the latter as straightforward.
More than 46% of respondents chose compassion as best describing Biden’s character, while 21% chose integrity, 11.3% chose ownership, 7.5% chose straightforwardness, 6.9% chose honesty and 6.4% chose trustworthiness.
About 74% of respondents chose straightforwardness as Trump’s main character trait, while 15.5% selected ownership, 4.2% chose honesty, 3.2% chose integrity, 1.7% chose trustworthiness and 1% chose compassion.
“Even though the candidates can be — you have a very specific view depending on your own political beliefs — in some ways people do view them similarly on their character traits or at least by the character traits we gave them to answer with,” Fyfe said.
However, Biden supporters were less likely to answer the question about Trump’s best character trait and Trump supporters were less likely to answer the question about Biden’s best character trait. Approximately 35% of students who said they would vote for Trump did not give an answer when asked about Biden’s best character trait. In contrast, about 26.25% of Biden supporters left the question about Trump’s best character trait blank.
“I mean, it’s not surprising that a lot of people didn’t answer those questions, because some of the candidates can be polarizing in some ways, but I just thought it was interesting,” Fyfe said.
Biden trusted to handle COVID-19 response, racial injustice and climate change
Respondents overwhelmingly trust Biden to handle COVID-19 response, racial injustice and climate change over Trump, but both candidates are fairly close in trust for foreign policy and economic recovery after the pandemic.
“People do see their preferred candidate in different lights depending on what the issue is,” Fyfe said.
About 66% of students said they would trust Biden more to handle the country’s response to COVID-19, while 19% trusted Trump and 10% trusted neither candidate. For racial injustice, 69.5% of students trust Biden more, while 12% trust Trump and 15% trust neither candidate. About 73% of students trust Biden to handle climate change, while 11% trust neither candidate and only 10% trust Trump.
Biden still holds more trust than Trump on the issue of economic recovery after the pandemic, but Trump has more student trust on that issue than on others. About 45% of respondents said they trusted Biden to handle the nation’s economic recovery after the pandemic, while 35% of students trusted Trump and 10% trust neither candidate.
More students trust Biden on issues relating to foreign policy as well. About 54% said they trusted Biden more on foreign policy, while 24.9% said they trusted Trump, 10% trusted neither candidate and 9.9% were unsure.
Students get most of their news online
When asked about their main source of information regarding the 2020 elections, 45% of students said they got their news from an online news source and about 35% said they receive their news from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter. Over 12% of students received their news from television, just under 5% received their news from podcasts, 1% listed radio as their main source of information and 0.4% cited print media.
Online news sources are the main source of information for both Trump and Biden supporters. More than 43% of students who would vote for Trump listed online news sources as their main sources of information, while 46% of Biden supporters and 56% of Jorgensen supporters did the same. Exactly one-third of Hawkins supporters said they received most of their information online.
Those who said they would have voted for Biden were more likely to list social media as their top news source than those who favored Trump. Approximately 37% of Biden supporters use social media as their primary source of information, while only 28% of Trump supporters did the same. About 37% of Jorgensen supporters also listed social media as their top source for information.
Trump supporters were more likely than Biden supporters to watch television, listen to the radio or tune in to podcasts for their main sources of information. Approximately 9% of students who indicated support for Trump listed podcasts as their main source of news, while 15% listed television and 1.68% listed radio. In contrast, about 3% of Biden supporters chose podcasts as their main sources of information, while 10% listed television and 0.88% indicated the radio.
Methodology and representation
An email with the Google Forms survey was sent to 1,646 students across campus. All responses were voluntary and anonymous.
The survey received responses from 31.3% of the student population. 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.
Fyfe believes despite having a lower response rate than previous polls, the results seem to line up fairly well with the Augustana student population based on the answers to the demographic questions.
“Generally speaking, it feels like it’s a decent representation of the campus,” Fyfe said. “Maybe not ideal.”
Women made up 68% of the poll’s respondents, while men made up about 28%. About 2% of respondents identified as non-binary, while 0.8% preferred not to answer. According to information reported by the university, women make up 63% of the student population while men make up 47%.
Approximately 31% of respondents were fourth-year students, while 24% were in their third year, 24% were in their second year, 17% were in their first year and 4% were in their fifth year or higher.
Biology majors made up 16% of the sample, nursing majors accounted for over 14% and education majors made up about 11%. Business administration majors and government majors followed at about 8% and 5%, respectively.
Just under half of respondents were from South Dakota, while about 25% were from Minnesota, 9% were from Iowa and 6% were from Nebraska. More than 92% of respondents identified as Caucasian, while 2.1% of respondents identified as Asian, 3.3% identified as being Black or African and 3.1% identified as Hispanic/Latinx.
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