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Poll: College, High School Students Favor Obama

President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney have courted the youth vote this election season.

The question of which candidate young voters will support looms as Election Day approaches.

In 2008, youth votes played an integral role in President Barack Obama’s election, but could the game change in 2012?  

A new national poll of more than 4,000 high school and college students shows a strong preference for Obama.

American University professor and director of its Women and Politics Institute Jennifer L. Lawless and Loyola Marymount University professor Richard L. Fox conducted the poll.

Among college students, Obama is favored over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by more than 30 percentage points. Among high school students, the lead narrows substantially, according to the poll. 

"At the end of the day, the youth vote is going to be most important in swing states." Lawless said. "The Obama campaign knows that it has a very clear advantage among college students and this poll reinforces that."

Lawless continued, "I don’t think the Romney campaign is trying to win the majority of young voters. They are trying to close the gap to the best of their ability and, perhaps more importantly, mobilize volunteers for Election Day."

Moreover, despite the often-negative tone the presidential campaign has taken, young people do not seem turned off; 87 percent of college students say they plan to vote and 88 percent of high school students report that they would vote if they were old enough.

"These results demonstrate widespread support for President Obama. But if he is not able to mobilize the constituency, then he has a major problem," Lawless added.

Key Findings from the Poll of College Students:

• College students who live in swing states favor President Obama over Governor Romney by 35 percentage points. 

• The 4-point gender gap among college students is smaller than the national average, but it grows to 10 points in swing states. 

 

 

Summary of Results – College Students


 

Obama

 

Romney

 

Other

 

Wouldn’t Vote

Overall

54.3 %

23.7 %

8.3 %

13.2 %

Women

56.3

21.4

7.5

14.0

Men

52.1

26.2

9.2

12.2

Swing States

58.5

23.4

6.2

10.5

Women

63.1

18.4

6.1

10.7

Men

53.4

29.0

6.3

10.4

Results are based on a national random sample of 1,023 male and 1,097 female college students, 465 of whom live in one of the nine swing states (CO, FL, IA, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI). The margin of error is +/- 2.2 percentage points.

 


Key Findings from the Poll of High School Students:

• Obama’s lead over Romney is 7 percentage points among 13-17 year olds in swing states.

• No discernible gender gap exists among high school students overall. 

• In swing states, female respondents are slightly more likely than male respondents to support Obama.

 

 

Summary of Results – High School Students


 

Obama

 

Romney

 

Other

 

Wouldn’t Vote

Overall

45.3 %

35.6 %

6.4 %

12.2 %

Women

44.5

34.6

7.0

13.4

Men

46.1

36.6

5.8

11.1

Swing States

43.9

36.9

4.7

14.2

Women

45.6

35.1

5.0

13.9

Men

42.2

38.5

4.4

14.4

Results are based on a national random sample of 1,121 male and 1,045 female high school students, 529 of whom live in one of the nine swing states (CO, FL, IA, NH, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI).The margin of error is +/- 2.2 percentage points.

 

With college students facing an uncertain economic climate, both candidates have courted the youth vote along the campaign trail. 

Obama launched a college tour in August to visit campuses including Iowa State University, Colorado State University and the University of Virginia. 

The Romney campaign meanwhile sent strong messages about the economy to younger voters at the Republican National Convention.  

“College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” said GOP vice presidential running-mate Paul Ryan during his speech in Tampa.  

Both candidates have also flooded the airwaves with campaign ads that say they’ll secure a better future for today’s youth.

"College students and college campuses are prime territory to find volunteers. The appeals to college campuses, in particular, are at least as much about generating grass-roots activism as generating votes," Lawless said.

These results are based on a national sample of 2,100 college students (between the ages of 18 and 24) and 2,166 high school students (between the ages of 13 and 17). 

The poll, conducted by American University / GfK Custom Research LLC, was in the field from September 27 – October 16, 2012, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.