86% of students at Kansas public universities plan to vote: FHSU's Docking Institute of Public Affairs polls students on political views, preferences

About 86 percent of survey respondents at six of the seven public universities in Kansas are registered to vote, and 87 percent of those plan to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Republicans Sam Brownback for governor and Jerry Moran to replace him in the U.S. Senate are "clear favorites" overall, in the words of the poll report's executive summary. Support for Democratic candidates Tim Holland for governor and Lisa Johnston for U.S. Senate, however, is nearly as high at the University of Kansas as for Brownback and Moran.

President Obama, meanwhile, is far more popular at the University of Kansas, Emporia State and Washburn than at Fort Hays State.

These are among the findings of the "Political Poll of Kansas Public University Students," released today by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University. Kansas State University was the only one of the seven public universities in Kansas that declined to participate. The poll was conducted by the Docking Institute between Oct. 6 and Oct. 22.

The participating universities provided e-mail addresses of either the entire population of students or a random sample of 10 percent of students. Of those that made the entire student body available, Docking Institute researchers randomly sampled 10 percent of the student body.

The findings are based on a total of 1,128 responses to the 7,541 e-mails sent out containing a link to the online survey, yielding a response rate of 15 percent. Results have an overall margin of error of 2.6 percent.

On the governor's race, Brownback was the favorite among students who made a choice in answering the question, "If the election were held today, for whom would you vote for governor/lt. governor?" Brownback was picked by 28 percent of respondents, compared to 15 percent for the Holland ticket, but the real winner was "Don't know," which was the answer of 41 percent of respondents. The Libertarian ticket was picked by 3 percent, while "Other" was 2 percent. Twelve percent said they wouldn't vote.

In the race for a U.S. Senate seat, Republican Jerry Moran was the choice of 25 percent of respondents, while Democrat Lisa Johnson got 14 percent. The big winner again was "Don't know" at 45 percent. Libertarian Michael Dann received 2 percent, "Other" got 4 percent, and 11 percent said they wouldn't vote.

A question on political feelings asked, "On a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being most negative, 50 being neutral and 100 being most positive, please indicate your feelings toward:" The list added President Obama and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to the major party candidates for governor and U.S. senator.

Obama had a mean rating of 50, Johnson and Moran both rated 49, Holland was at 48, Brownback came in at 42, and Palin was at 29.

On questions of political affiliation, the poll found about an even split between Republicans (33 percent) and Democrats (35 percent). Independents were at 18 percent while 9 percent were Libertarians, 2 percent claimed to be Green, and 4 percent chose Other.

The poll also found a fairly even split between self-identified very liberal and very conservative students. The breakdown was 15 percent very liberal, 25 percent somewhat liberal, 26 percent moderate, 20 percent somewhat conservative and 14 percent very conservative.

On the question of whether the government's main job is or is not to ensure a strong economy, the opinion among Kansas public university students is almost exactly an even, three-way split: 34 percent agree or strongly agree with that statement, 32 percent disagree or strongly disagree, and 34 percent neither disagree nor agree.

Among other interesting findings:

--Only a fourth of respondents said that a candidate being under the age of 30 would affect the likelihood of their voting for that candidate, but, of those, 71 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate under the age of 30; 29 percent said they would be more likely.

--A total of 74 percent either strongly disagreed (23 percent) or disagreed with the statement that the "economic recession is over." Only 10 percent strongly agreed (1 percent) or agreed (9 percent).

--Despite that view of the recession, a majority, 53 percent, were confident that they would be able to find a job after graduation.

--Respondents at Fort Hays State and Wichita State were more likely to be conservative and Republicans, while those at KU and Washburn were more likely to be liberal and Democrats.

The full report and the executive summary, with these and other findings, are available in .pdf form on the Docking Institute home page, www.fhsu.edu/docking.

Docking Institute Director Dr. Gary Brinker can be reached at 785-628-5233 or by e-mail to gdbrinker@fhsu.edu.

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