CBS polls Carnegie Mellon on upcoming elections

Just over 70 percent of Carnegie Mellon students who are registered Democratic voters in Pennsylvania plan to vote for candidate Senator Barack Obama (D–Ill.) as opposed to Senator Hillary Clinton (D–N.Y.) in tomorrow’s Democratic primaries, according to a new survey. The study, conducted by CBS News and UWire, was given to randomly selected students at Carnegie Mellon and 14 other universities across the state to gauge student interest and opinions in anticipation of tomorrow’s primaries.

The set of about 50 questions was sent by e-mail to 1500 Carnegie Mellon students in the past two weeks, data was taken similarly at other universities. Carnegie Mellon’s results were tabulated individually and included in the statewide statistics, which were comparable to the university’s data.

A large portion of the questions addressed the close competition between Obama and Clinton.

Sophomore computer science major Gabby Moskowitz, an intern at the League of Young Voters of Pennsylvania, was not surprised that so many students preferred Obama to Clinton.

“[Obama is] a really powerful speaker, and when he speaks he is talking to young people. When Hillary talks, she is not going for the young face,” said Moskowitz, also a member of Carnegie Mellon Students for Hillary Clinton.

Maria Mauro, a sophomore biology and political science major and co-founder of Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama, agreed with Moskowitz.

“Obama is a genuine person, and to add to that, he really wants to make changes, and people in our generation can live out his change,” Mauro said.

The survey addressed this issue of appeal to young voters.

At Carnegie Mellon, 54.6 percent of voters said they believe Obama cares about college students and their needs, whereas only 15.3 percent expressed the same trust in Clinton.

This set of data represents a slight deviation from the state figures in its more positive outlook on Obama. Statewide, 48 percent answered in favor of Obama, whereas 23 percent showed the same feelings for Clinton.

However, students at Carnegie Mellon and other polled universities saw obstacles for both of the Democratic candidates.

When asked whether it is harder to run for President as a female or as a black man, 60.8 percent of Carnegie Mellon students said that it is harder for a female to run, while the remaining 39.2 percent said that it is harder for a black man.

“It’s harder for a woman because she can’t be too feminine or too masculine without getting criticized,” Moskowitz said.

Mauro spoke about the dangers of generalizing the candidates.

“I don’t think you can box these candidates in these categories [of race and gender],” Mauro said. “Both have faced a lot of obstacles, and not necessarily one more so than the other.”

Yet most students agreed that the country is ready for a black or female President; these percentages measured 89.4 and 86 percent respectively.

Despite the competitive atmosphere of the Democratic party, John McCain, the Republican forerunner, was also a topic of the study.

Carnegie Mellon students were mostly satisfied with McCain’s experience and ability to very likely act as an effective commander-in-chief, at 75.7 and 37.8 percent, respectively.

The students satisfied with Obama’s experience and commanding abilities amounted to 70.2 and 27.8 percent, respectively. The figures for Clinton were the smallest, at 67.9 and 18.6 percent.

“I think it’s hard to judge candidates in the primaries,” Moskowitz said. “There is not a huge difference in platforms, especially to the average voter who sees only the big party issues.”

McCain trailed, however, in his ability to deal with the most important issue for Carnegie Mellon students: the economy and job market.

This issue won over the war in Iraq, with 37.1 percent versus 17.8 percent of respondents, respectively, saying it was the most important issue.

Only 8.3 percent of students believe McCain to be the best candidate, compared with 53.3 percent for Obama, and 14.1 percent for Clinton.

“I think many students see the Democratic party as moving forward and McCain’s policies as similar to Bush’s. The people in our generation are the ones fighting in Iraq,” Mauro said.

Students were generally in favor of the Democratic party over the Republican party for the elections in November.

If given the choice between McCain and Obama, 81.2 percent of students would choose Obama. If the elections came down to Clinton and McCain, 66.6 percent of students said they would vote for Clinton.

“Despite people saying that the Democratic party is being torn apart, I think they will unify in November,” Mauro said.

However, despite the intense buildup to the November elections, 23 percent of Carnegie Mellon students maintained that the final choice of President will not make a difference.
Moskowitz disagreed with this position, citing the eventual effect of each presidential candidate.

“A vote for President is a lot more than for one person,” she said, noting that appointees can number in the thousands. “A vote for a Republican president, for example, is a vote for conservative judges.”

Looking at the 23 percent statistic, Mauro considered the other 77 percent of respondents.

“Hopefully all these people will come out to vote then,” Mauro said.

The polling location for tomorrow’s primaries for students registered with a Carnegie Mellon address will be the Schenley Golf Course in Schenley Park. Free shuttles will be available at the University Center turnaround from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., picking up on the hour and half-hour.