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Ohio Wesleyan University Students Favor Democratic Party, Barack Obama, Survey Shows

December 13, 2007

DELAWARE, OHIO – Ohio Wesleyan University students feel twice as favorable toward the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, and more than half feel favorable toward presidential candidate Barack Obama, a new campus survey shows.

A total of 426 Ohio Wesleyan students took part in the poll, conducted in advance of the university’s 2008 Democratic Mock Presidential Convention, set for Feb. 1-2. Ohio Wesleyan conducted its first mock convention in 1884, and has held them regularly since 1920. The conventions always focus on the political party not currently occupying the White House.

According to the survey, 57 percent of Ohio Wesleyan students feel favorable toward the Democratic Party, and 26 percent feel favorable toward the Republican Party. Of the 2008 Democratic presidential contenders, 54 percent feel favorable toward U.S. Sen. Obama of Illinois, and 31 percent feel favorable toward U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. Although he is not a presidential candidate, former Vice President Al Gore received a 41 percent favorable rating from Ohio Wesleyan students.

Because Ohio Wesleyan’s 2008 mock convention will focus on the Democratic Party, students were not asked their opinions on individual GOP or third-party presidential candidates.

Gore’s popularity, in part, may be explained by his commitment to educating people about global warming, including his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Asked to indicate their interest in a list of issues important to the nation, 65 percent of Ohio Wesleyan students said they were very interested in environmental issues. Only education (80 percent) and health care (69 percent) ranked higher on the list. Other high-ranking issues included foreign policy, wages, and abortion.

The 60-question survey also examined which political party Ohio Wesleyan students thought would handle specific issues better and how useful students considered various types of media. Students rated the Democratic Party as better poised to handle all issues identified in the survey, especially health care, educational reform, and the economy. As for their media of choice, 49 percent of students considered newspapers very useful, followed by news magazines (45 percent), the Internet (42 percent), and TV news programs (41 percent.)

Ohio Wesleyan student Amanda Matthews, a senior from Idaho Falls, Idaho, coordinated the survey and is helping to prepare for February’s mock convention. The event typically involves between 300 and 400 students who debate the party platform and choose presidential and vice presidential candidates.

“I think it’s amazing that 70 percent of students who are registered to vote said they definitely or probably would vote in the election, especially since college-age voters tend to have one of the lowest voter turn-out rates,” said Matthews, a double major in politics and government and genetics. “I also think mock convention is a great way for students to learn more about the workings of the Democratic and Republican parties. This is an opportunity that comes along only once every four years.”

Of the 426 students who completed the survey, 47 percent reported being Democratic or Independent, leaning Democratic. Twenty-four percent reported being Republican or Independent, leaning Republican. Fifty-three percent of the respondents were female. Twenty-nine percent were first-year students, 32 percent sophomores, 20 percent juniors, and 19 percent seniors.

The survey was administered to Ohio Wesleyan students attending an 11 a.m. class on a designated day last month to capture a random sample of student interests and opinions.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.