- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A distinct voting bloc has taken a shine to President Bush: 61 percent of college students approve of Mr. Bush’s job performance, according to a Harvard University Institute of Politics survey released yesterday.

Sixty-six percent said they trust the president as much today as they did a year ago, while 88 percent of the students described themselves as patriotic.

“The conventional view that the majority of America’s college students are Democratic and that they care little about politics is clearly disproved by this new poll,” said survey director Dan Glickman.

“This poll is a warning shot to all candidates and political parties: Engage the nation’s 9 million college students or watch them vote for your opponent,” he added.

The poll also gave Mr. Bush the lead in a matchup: 39 percent of the respondents said he had their vote; 34 percent favored a “Democratic candidate”; 9 percent would vote for an independent and 18 percent were undecided.

The poll of 1,202 students was conducted nationwide Oct. 3-12. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

America’s college students take their politics seriously — and personally.

The poll found that 72 percent of them are registered voters; 82 percent hope to vote in the 2004 presidential election and 80 percent believe their vote “will make a difference” in the election. Eight of 10 know the location of their polling place.

Another 86 percent said they believe “political engagement” is effective in solving community problems, while 60 percent said they are more politically involved than their parents.

“I think college-age voters are more engaged, more informed,” said CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who will host a live “Rock the Vote” forum between young voters and the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, to be broadcast on CNN Nov. 4.

“They want to cut through the sound bites, the talking points and the debates to hear something genuine from the candidates, to get a sense of who this person really is,” Mr. Cooper said yesterday.

Indeed, 79 percent of the students want “practical” information about a candidate. They ranked leadership ability as the most important political characteristic, followed by experience, directness and stance on issues. The students ranked whether a politician was “attuned to the problems of the young” in last place.

“Defying conventional wisdom,” the poll stated, 31 percent of the respondents were Republicans, 27 percent Democrats, and 38 percent independent or unaffiliated.

In the race between Democratic contenders, 31 percent of the students remain undecided. Those with a preference are most likely to support Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (17 percent) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (15 percent).

Meanwhile, the students are concerned about postwar Iraq. Forty-eight percent said it is time to start withdrawing troops, while 87 percent felt that “members of the Bush administration” have been “hiding some things” about Iraq.

They also fret about the economy. Seventy-one percent think it will be difficult to find a job when they graduate.

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