UT Survey Provides Snapshot of Young Tennessee Voters

KNOXVILLE — Political science students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, think more Americans are ready for a black president than a female president.

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are their favored candidates.

And, more students describe themselves as “conservative” or “moderate” than “liberal.”

Experts say young voters could have a tremendous voice in this year’s presidential election. Tennessee and 23 other states hold their primaries on Tuesday, known as Super Tuesday.

A recent survey done at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, might provide insight into what young voters will say.

Earlier this month, 400 UT undergraduate and graduate students taking political science responded to a survey of student political attitudes. The survey — which is conducted each year — was created by John Scheb, UT political science professor, with support from UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

One interesting facet of the survey was that students who voted Democratic were more decisive than those who voted Republican, Scheb said.

“In the Democratic race, Barack Obama is the clear favorite among survey respondents, especially among Democrats and Independents. In the Republican race, John McCain is the slight favorite among all respondents, but he is actually stronger among Democrats and Independents than he is among Republicans in our sample,” he said.

Among the survey results:

• Students were fairly evenly split between conservative (33 percent), moderate (33 percent) and (29 percent) liberal idealogical orientation.

• Thirty-six percent of the students identified themselves as Democrat, 36 percent as Republican and 14 percent as Independent.

• Barack Obama was the clear Democratic favorite, garnering 40 percent of the votes. John Edwards received 19 percent and Hillary Clinton got 13 percent. Twenty-three percent were undecided.

• John McCain was the Republican favorite, receiving 24 percent of the vote. Mike Huckabee received 17 percent, Fred Thompson got 15 percent (he dropped out two days before the completion of the survey) and Ron Paul got 13 percent. Eighteen percent were undecided.

• Thirty-nine percent of the students agreed that “Americans are ready for a female president.” Forty-nine percent agreed that “Americans are ready for a black president.”

• Most students (91 percent) said they were registered to vote, but only 56 percent voted in the 2006 election, though many may not have been old enough to vote in 2006.

Nissa Dahlin-Brown, associate director of the Baker Center, said the survey illustrates the power youth could hold in selecting America’s next president.

“If youth turns out to vote, they could have a big impact on this election,” she said.

But the operative word is “if.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2004 presidential election, only 47 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, whereas of those aged 65 to 74, 73.3 percent voted.

The UT survey was completed by 84 percent undergraduates and 16 percent graduate students. Of these students, 48 percent were political science majors.

The sample was 56 percent male and 44 percent female, 88 percent white, 7 percent African American and 5 percent other.

For a look at the complete report and survey, visit www.bakercenter.utk.edu.


Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
John Scheb, (865) 974-2261, scheb@utk.edu
Nissa Dahlin-Brown, (865) 974-0931, Nissa@utk.edu