Elections, Politics, Spring 2016 Articles

Student Political Makeup Mixed; Turnout High

The timing for a poll was quite ripe, what better than during a presidential primary? But as if students were not hard enough to turn out, North Carolina went to the polls two days after Spring Break. As part of PackPoll’s Big Poll, NC State students were asked their party identification, intended turnout, Democratic candidate preference, Republican candidate preference, and head-to-head preference.

Dwarfed by older demographics cycle after cycle, student turnout is low. But NC State students appear to have shifted the needle in a new direction. 71% percent of students had either voted or planned to vote. Party Identification was deadlocked between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents: 31% Republican, 30% Democratic, and 38% Independent.

When compared to statewide polling, significant differences emerge. Among State students who had already voted or said they planned to vote, 36% of Republicans favored Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz was second, supported by 27%, while Kasich landed in third place.  Trump was last, which stands in sharp contrast to the average of statewide polls that show Trump was leading Ted Cruz 39% to 25%.

On the Democratic side, students favored Bernie Sanders in a rout over Hillary Clinton, 80% to 20%. That’s also very different than the average statewide NC poll, which shows Clinton leading Sanders 55% to 35%.

The results now set the table for an interesting analysis. Partisanship among students mirrored that of PackPoll’s most recent flash poll, taken in February on the vacancy of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, but what stands out is the remarkable number of students voting or planning to, and their candidate preferences which have no match in the adult population.

NOTE ON METHDOLOGY: This “Big Poll” took place March 13-15, 2016. The survey was administered over the internet to a random sample of 4,500 NCSU undergraduates, generating a 20% response rate for completed surveys. Sampling error is +/-3.3% for completed interviews and questions asked of the full sample; it is higher for sub-groups and questions asked of only portions of the full sample.

In addition to sampling error, other forms of error occur in surveys, such as confusion about question wording or the order of questions, but these are not precisely quantifiable. We did not apply post-stratification sample weights to adjust for possible demographic imbalances in our sample (primarily by gender), but weighting would only have minor effects on the results we report here (our sample is 51% male when men are 56% of the NCSU undergraduate student body).

Click here to see a PDF file for the full set of results: Spring2016BigPollToplines

Feel free to email us if you have any questions.


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