With the presidential election cycle officially underway, over half of Slippery Rock University students are registered to vote and more intend to do so.
On February 2 and 3, The Rocket conducted a survey of 99 students, 79 of whom were in American National Government and 20 of whom were in Public Speaking, and found that 56 percent had registered to vote. Of those who hadn’t registered, 82 percent said they intend to do so.
In terms of intent to vote, 52 percent said they plan on voting in the presidential primaries, the portion of the election cycle when political parties choose a nominee for the general election. 28 percent of respondents said they might vote in the primaries and 20 percent said they would not. According to Real Clear Politics, the Pennsylvania primary will be held on April 26 and will be a closed election, meaning only those who have registered with a political party may vote in that party’s primary.
As for the general election, 67 percent said they would vote, 22 percent said they might vote and 11 percent said they would not vote. According to Real Clear Politics, the general election, when Americans will choose a new president and Congress, will be held on November 8.
The vast majority of those registered, 91 percent, said they were registered to vote in their hometowns, while seven percent were registered in Slippery Rock and one percent were registered elsewhere.
Dr. Itzi Meztli, an assistant professor of English at SRU who is involved with campus voter drives, said those who are registered in their hometowns are unlikely to vote.
“The primary and general election are on school days,” he said. “If those students want to vote they either have to go home or send in an absentee ballot. I don’t think they’ll send in an absentee ballot.”
Those who registered described several common reason for doing so, including having a voice in government, fulfilling a requirement for a class, satisfying family members and upholding American civic duties.
“My parents always told me it was my job as an American to vote,” one respondent said.
Another respondent said they received a voter registration form as a birthday gift from their teacher, prompting them to register.
A third respondent cited government debt as their reason for registering.
“I registered because this election is extremely important,” they said. “The national debt is extremely high and government spending is through the roof.”
Those who haven’t registered attributed their status to a busy schedule, a lack of knowledge or interest in politics or having just turned 18 this election cycle.
“Honestly, I feel like the importance of voting isn’t advertised enough,” one respondent said.
Another cited family habit as their reason for not registering.
“My parents have never been registered, so I don’t feel a need to either,” they said.
Meztli said the problem with campus voter registration is that there is no student organization that does registration drives.
“The deadline to register to vote in the primary is March 26,” he said. “I usually do voter registration drives outside the library, but I don’t think anyone will want to set up a table in February.”
However, Meztli said students will vote if they can.
“Every four years, during the presidential election, we have a swell of students who go out and vote,” he said.
Of those surveyed, 39 percent identified as Democrats, 36 percent were Republicans, 14 percent were independents, one percent were Libertarian and nine percent were unsure which party they sided with. This runs contrary to national averages, where 42 percent identify as independent, 29 percent are Democrats and 26 percent are Republican, according to a Gallup poll published on January 11.
“Many students don’t know what the issues are or who to vote for,” Meztli said. “You have to engage them, convince them to vote, and they’ll decide closer to the election.”
In an effort to achieve a representative sample, The Rocket selected two liberal studies classes to eliminate college major as a variable. The variable of age was also limited, as younger students primarily make up American National Government classes and older students primarily make up Public Speaking. However, these results should be seen as primarily anecdotal in nature.
Exit polls from Monday’s Iowa caucus released by NBC illustrate the significance of the youth vote. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were virtually tied, with Sanders receiving 84 percent of the vote from those under age 29 and Clinton performing better with older voters. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won his caucus while carrying the under 29 vote, but with a narrower margin than Sanders.