University News

Students favor Obama, Herald poll finds

President Ruth Simmons maintains high approval rating

By and
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This article is part of the series Herald Poll

Brown undergraduates overwhelmingly favor Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in the 2008 presidential election, according to a Herald poll conducted last week.

37.5 percent of students said they believe Obama would make the best president of the United States, versus 18.4 percent who said they favored Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina came in third with 5.6 percent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas led among Republican candidates, with 3.1 percent of the Brown vote.

The Herald poll was conducted from Nov. 5-7 and has a 3.9 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 621 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which was administered as a written questionnaire to students in the University Post Office at Faunce House and in the Sciences Library.

Though 83.4 percent of students expressed an opinion about their favorite presidential candidate, only 5.6 percent said they currently work or volunteer for a presidential campaign.

66.5 percent of students said they support converting some or all multi-user restrooms in residence halls into gender-neutral facilities. But just 12.6 percent of respondents said they want all bathrooms to be converted, and 53.9 percent said they want some bathrooms to remain single-sex only. 23.2 percent of students said they do not want any bathrooms to be converted.

Currently, over half of the University’s single-use, lockable bathrooms in residence halls are gender-neutral, and some multi-user bathrooms in residence halls have also been converted to gender-neutral status. The University is in the process of mapping on-campus bathrooms and deciding which can be designated gender-neutral.

President Ruth Simmons remains highly popular among students, according to the Herald poll. 84.9 percent of respondents said they approve of the job Simmons is doing as president, with 43.2 percent of those students strongly approving. Just 4.3 percent of students said they somewhat or strongly disapproved of the job Simmons is doing, and 10.8 percent didn’t know or had no opinion. In a Herald poll conducted in January and February, 81 percent of students said they approved of Simmons’ work.

The Undergraduate Council of Students did not elicit the same positive reaction as Simmons. 39.3 percent of students said they somewhat or strongly approved of the job UCS is doing, down from 46 percent who approved last spring. 29.1 percent of students say they disapprove of how UCS is handling its job, and 31.6 percent said they didn’t know or had no opinion, compared to 34 percent last semester who gave the same answer.

42.2 percent of students said they had no opinion of how Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron is handling her job, while 26 percent said they approved and 31.8 percent said they disapproved.

Though Brown students may have a reputation as apathetic college sports fans, 52.7 percent of respondents said they have attended a Brown varsity sports game this semester, versus 47.2 percent who said they have not.

Asked how many sexual partners they have had this semester, 44.8 percent of respondents said they have had one to two partners this fall, 3.7 percent said they have had three or four sexual partners and 1.3 claimed five or more. 43.3 percent of students said they have had zero sexual partners so far this semester.

In response to a question asking what substances poll-takers have used in the past month, 77.8 percent of students said they drank alcohol. 32.5 percent of respondents said they used marijuana, and 17.6 percent said they used tobacco. 2.3 percent said they used cocaine and 2.1 percent said they used amphetamines. 17.9 percent of respondents said they used none of the listed substances.

Responding to the chronic parking crunch on College Hill and the upcoming destruction of the parking lot outside the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center to make room for the new Nelson Fitness Center, the University has indicated it may build off-campus parking lots and run a shuttle service from there to campus.

Of the 11.4 percent of students surveyed who said they keep a car on campus, 39.8 percent said they would use such a service if it was the only option available, while 41 percent said they would find another way to park their cars on campus. Only 3.6 percent of students said they would be dissuaded by such measures from actually bringing their cars at all. The margin of error for that question was 10.7 percent at 95 percent confidence, due to the smaller number of respondents who said they currently have a car on campus.

 

Herald Poll Results

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Ruth Simmons is handling her job as president of Brown University?

Strongly Approve: 43.2 percent

Somewhat Approve: 41.7 percent

Somewhat Disapprove: 3.5 percent

Strongly Disapprove: 0.8 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 10.8 percent

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Katherine Bergeron is handling her job as dean of the College?

Strongly Approve: 6.8 percent

Somewhat Approve: 19.2 percent

Somewhat Disapprove: 23.3 percent

Strongly Disapprove: 8.5 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 42.2 percent

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) is handling its job?

Strongly Approve: 6 percent

Somewhat Approve: 33.3 percent

Somewhat Disapprove: 21.9 percent

Strongly Disapprove: 7.2 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 31.6 percent

4. Do you support the conversion of multi-user bathrooms in residence halls to gender-neutral status?

Yes, I support converting all bathrooms: 12.6 percent

Yes, I support converting some bathrooms: 53.9 percent

No, I do not support converting anyb athrooms: 23.2 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 10.3 percent

5. Which of the current 2008 presidential candidates do you believe would make the best President of the United States?

Barack Obama: 37.5 percent

Hillary Clinton: 18.4 percent

John Edwards: 5.6 percent

Dennis Kucinich: 4.5 percent

Ron Paul: 3.1 percent

Mitt Romney: 2.7 percent

Bill Richardson: 2.6 percent

Joseph Biden: 2.4 percent

Rudy Giuliani: 1.8 percent

John McCain: 1 percent

Mike Gravel: 0.6 percent

Fred Thompson: 0.5 percent

Tom Tancredo: 0.3 percent

Duncan Hunter: 0.2 percent

Christopher Dodd: 0 percent

Mike Huckabee: 0 percent

Other: 2.3 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 16.6 percent

6. Are you currently involved with or working/volunteering for a presidential campaign?

Yes: 5.6 percent

No: 93.6 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 0.8 percent

7. Have you attended a Brown varsity sports game this semester?

Yes: 52.7 percent

No: 47.2 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 0.2 percent

8. Do you keep a car on campus?

Yes: 11.4 percent

No: 88.4 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 0.2 percent

9. If you answered yes to the previous question, would you use an off-campus parking lot with shuttle service to campus for car storage if that were the only option available to you? (The margin of error on this question is 10.7 percent, versus 3.9 percent for the rest of the poll.)

Yes: 39.8 percent

No, I wouldn’t bring a car at all: 3.6 percent

No, I would find another way to store my car: 41 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 15.7 percent

10. How many sexual partners have you had so far this semester?

0: 43.3 percent

1-2: 44.8 percent

3-4: 3.7 percent

5-6: 0.5 percent

7 or more: 0.8 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 6.9 percent

11. In the past month, which of the following substances have you used?

Alcohol: 77.8 percent

Marijuana: 32.5 percent

Tobacco: 17.6 percent

Cocaine: 2.3 percent

Amphetamines: 2.1 percent

Prescription painkillers not prescribed to you: 1.8 percent

Psychedelic mushrooms: 1.8 percent

LSD: 1.3 percent

Ecstasy (MDMA): 1 percent

Nitrous Oxide: 0.3 percent

Heroin: 0.2 percent

Opium: 0 percent

Phencyclidine (PCP): 0 percent

Other: 1.1 percent

None of the above: 17.9 percent

Don’t Know/No Answer: 1.6 percent

 

Methodology

Written questionnaires were administered to 621 undergraduates from Nov. 5 to 7 at the University Post Office in Faunce House in the morning and afternoon and at the Sciences Library at night. To ensure random sampling, pollsters approached every third person and asked if they would like to complete a poll. The poll has a 3.9 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence, except for the ninth question, which was asked only of people who said they keep a car on campus, and has a 10.7 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence.

The sample polled was demographically similar to the Brown undergraduate population as a whole. The sample was 48.8 percent male and 51.2 percent female. First-years made up 24.5 percent of the sample, 27.9 percent were sophomores, 23.7 percent were juniors and 24 percent were seniors. 68.8 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 7.8 percent identified as black or African-American, 8.1 percent Hispanic, 17.2 percent Asian, 1.0 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.5 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, 2.1 percent identified with a racial group or ethnicity not listed and 1.9 percent chose not to answer. The sum of the percentages add up to more than 100 percent due to respondents who identified with multiple ethnic or racial groups.

Senior Staff Writers Isabel Gottlieb ’10 and Franklin Kanin ’10 coordinated the poll. Herald section editors, senior staff writers and staff writers helped conduct it.