About 130 students participated in The Rocket’s Presidential Election survey regarding their political views and who they are voting for on Election Day. This election year’s survey revealed varying opinions of the presidential candidates, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, but many agreed on certain issues.

The survey was active between Oct. 21 and Oct. 26 and was promoted numerous times on The Rocket’s Twitter and Facebook pages. All participants answered the questions anonymously, only including their email address if they wished to be entered into a drawing as an incentive for completing the survey. 

Because the participants are SRU students, as of Nov. 3, 90% of the 130 students are ages 18-22, while only 10% are ages 23-26 or older. While all years of study were represented in the survey, 58 (44.6%) are seniors, 32 (24.6%) are juniors, 27 (20.8%) are sophomores, 11 (8.5%) are graduate students and two (1.5%) are freshmen. 

Of the 130 participants, a majority are Caucasian (95.4%), while 3.1% prefer not to say, 0.8% are Latino or Hispanic and another 0.8% identify as another ethnicity or don’t know. 

The participants were overwhelmingly female, with 96 (73.8%) identifying as women and 34 (26.2%) identifying as men. Similarly, the academic colleges were not equally represented: 44 (33.8%) participants are part of the College of Health, Engineering and Science, while 35 (26.9%) participants are in the College of Education. The remaining 51 are in the College of Business (19.2%), the College of Liberal Arts (18.5%) and are currently exploratory (1.5%).

When asked about their political affiliation, 41 (31.5%) participants said they are liberal while 14 (10.8%) said conservative. The remaining considered themselves to be center or moderate (16.2%), center-left or leaning liberal (21.5%) and center-right or leaning conservative (14.6%). Seven (5.4%) participants decided not to say. 

Over 99% of respondents said they are planning on voting in this election, and only one (0.8%) person said they won’t be voting. An even 50% of participants are first-time voters, while the other 50% have voted before.

Preferred candidate

When it comes to who students plan to vote for, Biden was the favorite with 82 respondents (63.1%) stating they would vote for the former vice president. Trump came in second, receiving 42 votes (32.3%). 

Also receiving votes were Kanye West with one vote and Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen with 2 votes. One respondent said they were undecided while two others said they would vote for someone else.

Supporters of the former vice president said his “policies on the LGBT+ community, climate change, and his education plans” make him the stronger candidate. 

In contrast, those voting for the president touted economic success while Trump has been in office.

“So I will be voting for Trump because economics runs everything,” one respondent said.

Some voters for both candidates did mention the candidates were not their first choice, yet they were still voting for one from the major parties.

One voter said since a third-party had no chance of being elected they were forced to choose the “lesser of two evils.”

On the other side, Biden supporters may not have felt strongly about the candidate but were still voting for him because he is not Trump.

“Four more years of Trump will kill us,” a Biden voter said. “Joe is not my first choice, but he will get the job done and I trust him way more than Trump.”

About 38.5% of respondents said they participated in this election because they believe it will have a major impact on the world. A smaller majority (26.9%) said it is their civic duty to vote in each election.

That major impact were rights issues ranging from climate change to LBGT+ policies.

“We need a president that recognizes and cares about those human rights issues,” one Biden supporter said.

Similarly, about 23.8% of respondents said they believe the outcomes of this election will impact them personally. 

“My dad is a police officer, so I will be voting for the candidate that is not trying to defund the police,” said one respondent who said they would be voting for Trump.

Eight participants (6.2%) said because it is a presidential election, they feel obligated to vote. Six respondents (4.6%) said they participate in the election process for other reasons than the listed options.

Ranking of issues

For one question, participants were asked to rank the following 11 issues from the most important to least important in terms of deciding who to vote for in this election: coronavirus pandemic, racial inequality, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ policy, immigration policy, foreign policy issues, laws surrounding the Second Amendment, education, economics, healthcare and climate. 

After adding the total number of votes each issue received for each placement (which was calculated by assigning point values based on the placement in each person’s ranking), the coronavirus pandemic was the top issue, with 32 participants indicating this issue as their top priority. This was followed by racial inequality and health care. 

The next three issues–education, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ policy–were ranked fourth through sixth, respectively. These three issues were within the closest margins compared to other issues on the list, as the difference between education and women’s rights was one point.

In order, the remaining issues were climate, immigration policy, foreign policy issues and laws surrounding the Second Amendment. While seven participants chose the Second Amendment as their top issue, 41 people ranked this as their least important issue. 

Political issues

With regard to defunding the police, 63 (48.5%) said they did not support the move, while 49 (37.7%) did. Eighteen respondents said they were unsure if defunding would be beneficial.

Some in support of defunding clarified that they did not want to see the police abolished but wanted funding to be reallocated to services like healthcare and social work. 

“Defunding the police doesn’t mean I hate the police or that I want to abolish the police,” said one respondent. “I think the police are overfunded and that money could be used to fund communities and other agencies that could take some of a load of what the police should have to deal with.”

Those not looking to defund police departments said they want law enforcement to be better trained and equipped to do their jobs but questioned how that would be possible with less funding. 

Respondents who said they were unsure about defunding police wanted police to be held accountable but not dissolved. While some wanted better training for police, they also wanted to see budget increases for education and healthcare.

Three of the other questions asked participants to respond “yes,” “no, or “unsure” to three separate issues. The first asked if Trump and his administration handled the response to the coronavirus pandemic well. Most participants (85 students, or 65.4%) said no while 33 (25.4%) said yes. The other 12 participants were not sure. 

The majority of participants (58, or 44.6%) were unsure if the number of Supreme Court justices should be expanded. The survey ended at midnight on Monday, the evening that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Of the other votes, 41 participants believe the nation’s highest court should not be expanded while 31 (23.8%) believe the Supreme Court should have an increased amount of spaces. 

Another debate that stemmed from the 2016 was the abolishment of the Electoral College, as Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes, but received 2.8 million fewer votes than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In the SRU survey, 58 (44.6%) of respondents support abolishing the Electoral College, while the amount of participants against the abolishment and unsure of their stance was tied at 36 participants (27.7%) each. 

This survey had one of the highest participant counts in recent memory, as the most recent poll conducted by The Rocket with similar participant incentives received just over 100 submissions.

 

Nina is a sophomore majoring in communication: converged journalism. She has aspired to become a journalist for the New York Times for as long as she can remember. During high school, she was on her school's newspaper staff freshman to senior year. She was also the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper during her senior year. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music and watching YouTube and Netflix. She is elated to be The Rocket's news editor, and she can't wait to see what SRU and The Rocket have in store for her.

Hannah is a senior secondary English education major and communication minor entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as editor-in-chief. Previously, she served as assistant news editor and covered Student Government Association affairs. After graduation, she hopes to teach English, communications and journalism to high school students. Hannah has won numerous awards for her writing and design work with The Rocket and was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year in 2020. Outside of The Rocket, Hannah is also part of WSRU-TV, Sigma Tau Delta and the Honors College.

Joe is a senior communication major with a concentration in converged journalism. This is his first year with The Rocket as assistant news editor. Before joining The Rocket, Joe worked at Butler County Community College’s student newspaper along with a short-lived career as public affairs sergeant (along with many other assignments) with the United States Army. When not covering campus news, Joe spends his weekends with his fiancée and son in Slippery Rock.

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