Image courtesy of Sadie Jonson.
On September 29, I stood at the corner of 16th and Illinois streets and over the course of about 3 hours polled 48 Mines students regarding their political opinions. I asked students about voting, candidates, and ballot initiatives as well as two demographic questions. In an effort to maintain a random sample I asked to poll every student who passed me until someone agreed, then repeated the process. I would have liked to have had a larger sample size in order to more precisely show the opinions of our community. Also, the poll is unfortunately biased towards the people more likely to respond. The poll respondents tended towards being men and first year students. This may be a product of who was on the street at the time of the poll and that women declined to take the poll more often than men. The poll has no margin of error and it is not exactly scientific. Still, I feel it is valuable information from which conclusions can be reached.
I will discuss the results of the data in the order of the questions I asked. First off, a vast majority, 87.5%, of respondents said they were registered to vote. A slightly smaller share, 83.3%, said they planned to vote in the election ending November 3. According to ‘Democracy Counts: A Report On U.S. College and University Student Voting’, a report by Tufts University, in 2016 while 70.6% of US college students were registered to vote, only 48.3% ended up doing so. It is worth noting that of registered students, 68.5% cast their ballots. This poll finds numbers of registration far above those national numbers in 2016 which could be a result of higher registration at Mines or in 2020 in general. The report also notes that at 52.0%, the Rocky Mountain region had the highest rate of voting among college students nationally in 2016. It is well known that among all age groups, young people tend to vote at lower rates. This trend manifests in the report as an increase in voter turnout as students grow older and progress into graduate studies. Finally, college age women were 7.2% more likely to vote than college age men and those in STEM studies were the least likely to vote among all fields of study. For further reading, I recommend the report. It is short and filled with informative graphics.
Regarding candidates, I asked respondents to indicate preference for a US Presidential and Colorado Senate candidate. 25% and 62.5% of respondents were undecided, respectfully. This disparity could be attributed to relative prominence of the Presidential election or the unfamiliarity of out of state students with the Colorado Senate race or other factors. A majority of respondents being undecided in the Senate race I think could indicate a lack of familiarity with the candidates among Mines students or a lack of preference between them. While in both races more respondents indicated preference for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate, the margin was much wider for the presidential race. In a national poll conducted by The Morning Consult, likely voters born after 1996 preferred Joe Biden to Donald Trump 65% to 27%. If undecided responses to this poll split evenly it would indicate that more respondents hold preference for Mr. Trump than is average among our age group. The website Niche ranks the Colorado School of Mines 360th most conservative college in the US.
Regarding ballot initiatives, respondents expressed strong support for Proposition EE creating taxes on nicotine vaping products and increasing taxes on tobacco products as well as Proposition 114 reintroducing wolves to the state of Colorado. More students than not supported Proposition 113 adopting an interstate agreement to elect the US President by national popular vote while respondents were evenly split on Proposition 115 banning abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy. A taboo issue, Proposition 115 has the most undecided responses at 29.2% followed by 114, 113, then EE at 10.4%. Many respondents were unfamiliar with ballot initiatives but were presented with the official Colorado Blue Book for information. I would like to mention that I observed qualitatively that support for voter initiatives was only very loosely tied to presidential preference. This was especially true for Proposition 114, where as far as I could tell who a respondent preferred for president was uncorrelated with their support of the initiative. Colorado voters will be asked to vote on several other ballot initiatives this election. As I wanted to keep the scope of this poll limited and I felt these initiatives would take longer to understand due to their more technical nature, I did not poll on them. You can consult the Blue Book for more information about all ballot initiatives.
With many respondents undecided on many issues and voter turnout among college students typically far below registration rates it remains to be seen how Mines students cast their votes and how many cast them at all. Are you ready to vote? •