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Inside Politics

Students, youth have power at the polls

Correspondents offer analyses as Democratic convention ends

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the colleges mentioned in this article.
Campus Vibe
America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- College students favor Sen. John Kerry over President Bush in the upcoming election, according to a recent Harvard University poll.

Fifty-eight percent of college students favor Kerry, while 37 percent back Bush, a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll suggested.

The survey interviewed 390 college undergraduates July 9-15. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

With many other polls showing Bush and Kerry neck and neck in the overall race, factors such as youth turnout could play a critical factor in the outcome of the election.

But CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield said he isn't so convinced.

"It is possible, maybe even probable, that the youth vote will tick up this year, because voter turnout across the board looks like it will be up," Greenfield said via e-mail. "But count me as a skeptic about its massive power at the polls."

-- Meriah Doty, Campus Vibe editor

With the conclusion of this week's Democratic convention, Campus Vibe correspondents offered analyses of what students at their schools are thinking on three election topics:

  • Response to Kerry
  • "Fahrenheit 9/11"
  • The Edwards effect
  • Response to Kerry

    Kerry has not made a huge impact on University of Nebraska-Lincoln students. He has never visited UNL or targeted its students. But UNL students seem to be drawn to his policies, views and ideas for the future, mostly including his Change Starts with U: Kerry Campus Tour 2004. (Kerry's campaign says Bush's economic policies are hurting college-bound youth.) Although Nebraska is primarily Republican, the number of Democrats on campus seems to be growing. The war in Iraq has played a huge role in UNL students' lives, and opinions about the war seem to influence their political views. Kerry may receive more votes from UNL students because of the anti-war sentiment.

    -- Amber Brozek, University of Lincoln-Nebraska Campus Vibe correspondent


    Kerry's impact on African-American college voters has been negative. Democrats have been able to count on the support of the African-American vote since the time of Franklin Roosevelt, but Kerry's approach and lack of concern for African-American issues have many on Howard University's campus in Washington wondering if he is the candidate they want for the next four years. At a Kerry speaking engagement at Howard in April, students were disappointed to find that the candidate did not discuss their needs or concerns but instead gave a watered-down speech that was less than inspiring. With the choice of Kerry or Bush in November, Howard students are asking the question, "Is there a difference?"

    -- Ruth Tisdale, Howard University Campus Vibe correspondent


    The University of Missouri is not a stereotypically liberal college campus and support for the Democratic presidential nominee has sluggishly increased after he won the Missouri primary in February. This support, which is about equal to that for Bush, increased over the summer months due in part to the continued violence in Iraq and as supporters of longtime Rep. Richard Gephardt forgave Kerry for forcing the St. Louis-area congressman out of the Democratic presidential race.

    -- Chris Blank, University of Missouri Campus Vibe correspondent


    The overall response that I have received about Kerry has been that most students don't love him, but many find him "better than Bush." Many find his views "wishy-washy" and say he needs to get a stronger agenda instead of just being the candidate who opposes Bush. However, many students feel more positive about the Kerry campaign now that John Edwards has joined the ticket. They say that his enthusiasm and energy make up for Kerry's lack of it.

    -- Gina Goodhill, University of Southern California Campus Vibe correspondent

    'Fahrenheit 9/11'


    At Michigan State University, political views shape the way students are affected by "Fahrenheit 9/11." Students who are Democrats seem to take more stock in the message filmmaker Michael Moore is putting forth and are less skeptical of the information. They see the movie as further evidence of the Bush administration's incompetence. Meanwhile, most conservative students either dismiss the film as propaganda or refuse to see it in the first place. There are, however, a few right-leaning students who feel the film was worthwhile and have a lower opinion of Bush as a result of viewing it.

    -- Dirk VanderHart, Michigan State University Campus Vibe correspondent


    Texas A&M University students feel that the film "Fahrenheit 9/11" won't change their minds about whom to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. Senior Jon Steed said this is probably because students walk into the film with set beliefs that were either confirmed or not by viewing it. Senior John McLaughlin feels most Aggies aren't willing to acknowledge the movie in great numbers because it doesn't support the conservative ideals that a majority of students at the College Station, Texas, campus hold. Both Democratic and Republican students do agree the movie was biased and think "Fahrenheit 9/11" was made simply to promote the filmmaker's anti-Bush agenda.

    -- Sonia Moghe, Texas A&M University Campus Vibe correspondent


    Students at Oregon's Portland Community College said they believe those who saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" probably already have decided who they're voting for before going to the theater. But pre-nursing student Jessika Straw said, "During those years [18 to 25], voters are fairly impressionable. They are still forming their [political] opinions." With all the hype around this movie's political message, many said they felt it may encourage younger voters to get to the polls. But as to whether the movie persuades voters toward a particular candidate, Straw said, "I think it makes no difference."

    -- Christy Moorehouse, Portland Community College Campus Vibe correspondent

    The Edwards effect


    The general consensus at the University of Pennsylvania, on both sides of the aisle and in the middle, is that Edwards is the "sexiest" candidate in the race. Nevertheless, the senator from North Carolina does not seem to have changed anybody's mind. In general, it seems like adding Edwards didn't do Kerry any harm, but it's hard to say whether he's grabbed undecideds for the Democrats.

    -- Spencer Willig, University of Pennsylvania Campus Vibe correspondent

    start quoteIt was refreshing to see the opposite side of issues [in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'] since I'm bombarded daily with conservative media.end quote
    -- Jeff Patton, Texas A&M junior

    Many college students are calling Kerry's choice of Edwards as his running mate predictable yet exciting. Some students credited their support for the Democrats to Edwards' optimistic message during the primaries, saying it brought hope to those who are looking to be empowered by politicians. Though some expressed concern about Edwards' experience, others believe it might help the Democrats gain support from young people who are disillusioned by politics.

    -- Andrea Gabbidon-Levene, Emerson College Campus Vibe correspondent


    The University of Florida College Democrats report that after Edwards' selection the Gators for Kerry listserv jumped from a meager 50 participants to nearly 300, even during summer sessions when enrollment is low. But the energy is less about the substance of Kerry, the guy who actually got the Democratic nomination. As with most Democrats, these students say they want Bush defeated. And for at least one former Nader supporter, the optimistic and Clintonesque Edwards is reason enough to go with the Democrats this year.

    -- Dwayne Robinson, University of Florida Campus Vibe correspondent

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