University News

86.1 percent of students support Obama, poll finds

By and
Friday, October 31, 2008
This article is part of the series Herald Poll

Brown undergraduates overwhelmingly support Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, according to a Herald poll conducted earlier this week.

86.1 percent of students said they support Obama for president of the United States, versus 6.3 percent who said they favor Sen. John McCain. Independent party candidate Ralph Nader received 1.4 percent of the vote, while Libertarian candidate Bob Barr garnered only 0.5 percent.

The Herald poll was conducted Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 and has a 3.6 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 649 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which was administered as a written questionnaire to students in the University Post Office at J. Walter Wilson, outside the Blue Room in Faunce House and in the Sciences Library.

Of students polled, 86.1 percent reported that they are registered to vote in the United States, with 72.6 percent of students polled registered in a state other than Rhode Island. Additionally, 5.1 percent of respondents said they are eligible to vote but are not registered.

The Herald poll indicates that students have generally not been promiscuous this semester. 80.9 percent of Brown undergraduates have had zero or one sexual partner so far this semester, according to the poll. 44.1 percent of respondents reported having had zero partners. This time last year, 88.1 percent of students reported that they’d had between zero and two sexual partners, compared with 86.9 percent this year. Only 1.5 percent of respondents reported that they’ve had six or more partners this semester.

President Ruth Simmons’ popularity stayed fairly consistent from last year. 80.4 percent of students approved of the job Simmons is doing, compared with 84.9 percent this time last year. Only 4.3 percent said they somewhat or strongly disapproved of the job Simmons is doing, and 15.3 percent didn’t know or had no opinion.

The Undergraduate Council of Students does not enjoy the same support. 38.1 percent of students strongly or somewhat approved of the job UCS is doing. But 49.3 percent answered that they didn’t know or had no opinion, up 17.7 percent from one year ago.

Student opinion is split on the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, with 33.7 percent of students saying they approve of the job the Corporation is doing and 26.8 percent saying they disapprove.

Though there has been some concern recently among faculty about the number of graduate student teaching assistants needed in undergraduate courses, the majority of students polled were unconcerned: 76.6 percent reported they were very or somewhat satisfied with the number of TAs in their classes.

As the University weathers the current financial storm, 43.2 percent of students reported being somewhat or very worried about the University’s ability to maintain its commitment to financial aid. 35.3 percent of respondents said that they are very or somewhat confident about its ability, while 14.8 percent responded that they were neither confident nor worried.

With unemployment rising nationwide, 36.2 percent of students reported being very or somewhat confident that they would find a job when they graduate from Brown. 39.3 percent of students said they were somewhat or very worried about finding a job, while 7.4 percent answered that they did not plan to look for a job right after graduation.

When asked to compare themselves to their Brown peers, students remained generally modest. 40.8 percent of students said they considered themselves “average” and 40.5 percent answered that they were “somewhat” or “well above average.” Only 6.2 percent responded that they find themselves below average.

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: 43.8%
Somewhat approve: 36.7%
Somewhat disapprove: 3.2%
Strongly disapprove: 1.1%
Don’t know / No answer: 15.3%

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) is handling its job?
Strongly approve: 5.1%
Somewhat approve: 33.0%
Somewhat disapprove: 9.4%
Strongly disapprove: 3.2%
Don’t know / No answer: 49.3%

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the Corporation is handling its job as the University’s highest governing body?
Strongly approve: 4.6%
Somewhat approve: 29.1%
Somewhat disapprove: 21.4%
Strongly disapprove: 5.4%
Don’t know / No answer: 39.4%

4. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with number of TAs in your classes?
Very satisfied: 34.1%
Somewhat satisfied: 42.5%
Somewhat dissatisfied: 14.0%
Very dissatisfied: 3.9%
Don’t know / No answer: 5.5%

5. Are you confident or worried about the University’s ability to maintain its commitment to financial aid?
Very confident: 10.6%
Somewhat confident: 24.7%
Neither confident nor worried: 14.8%
Somewhat worried: 33.0%
Very worried: 10.2%
Don’t know / No answer: 6.8%

6. If the 2008 presidential election were held today, which candidate would you support?
Bob Barr: 0.5%
John McCain: 6.3%
Ralph Nader: 1.4%
Barack Obama: 86.1%
Other: 0.9%
Don’t know / No answer: 4.8%

7. Are you currently involved with or working/volunteering for a presidential campaign?
Yes, I volunteered in Rhode Island for a campaign.: 5.7%
Yes, I volunteered in another state for a campaign.: 9.6%
I gave money to a campaign.: 13.7%
No, I did not volunteer or give money.: 74.7%
Don’t know / No answer: 1.5%
Although the question instructed poll-takers to circle one choice, some respondents indicated they did more than one of the options. In those cases The Herald counted all the responses.

8. What is your current voter registration status?
Registered to vote in Rhode Island: 13.6%
Registered to vote in another state: 72.6%
Not eligible: 8.6%
Not registered: 5.1%
Don’t know / No answer: 0.2%

9. Given the current economic situation, how confident or worried are you about finding a job when you graduate from Brown?
Very confident: 12.9%
Somewhat confident: 23.3%
Neither confident nor worried: 15.1%
Somewhat worried: 31.9%
Very worried: 7.4%
I do not plan to look for a job right after I graduate: 7.4%
Don’t know / No answer: 2.0%

10. Compared to your peers at Brown, do you consider yourself overall to be:
Well above average: 7.2%
Somewhat above average: 33.3%
Average: 40.8%
Somewhat below average: 5.1%
Well below average: 1.1%
Don’t know / No answer: 12.5%

11. How many sexual partners have you had so far this semester?
0: 44.1%
1: 36.8%
2: 6.0%
3-5: 3.4%
6 or more: 1.5%
Don’t know / No answer: 8.2%

Methodology
Written questionnaires were administered to 649 undergraduates from Oct. 27 to 28 at the University Post Office in J. Walter Wilson and outside the Blue Room at Faunce House in the morning and afternoon and at the Sciences Library at night, with the exception of a brief period Monday during a fire alarm at Wilson when students who walked by the building were polled. To ensure random sampling, pollsters approached every third person and asked if they would like to complete a poll. The poll has a 3.63 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 43.5 percent male and 56.5 percent female. First-years made up 27.4 percent of the sample, 29.3 percent were sophomores, 21.4 percent were juniors and 21.9 percent were seniors. 69.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 7.9 percent identified as black or African-American, 7.8 percent Hispanic, 18.6 percent Asian, 0.9 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.7 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, 1.3 percent identified with a racial group or ethnicity not listed and 2.2 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 Anne Simons ’11 and Sara Sunshine ’11 coordinated the poll. Herald section editors, senior staff writers and staff writers helped conduct it.