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Ohio State University Poll: Students Concerned about Country's Direction

Students at The Ohio State University say the United States is not moving in the right direction, according to a new poll conducted by the university. While slightly more than half of Ohio State University undergraduates don’t feel the United States is moving in the right direction, a majority still support President Obama for reelection, the survey shows.

About 57 percent of the students say the country is not moving in a direction that is beneficial to them. At the same time 54 percent of students who have already voted say they cast their ballot for Obama and 52 percent who plan to vote say they would support the president.

Of those students who plan to vote, about 38 percent indicate they will vote for Governor Mitt Romney; 46 percent of those who have already voted cast their ballot for Romney. Another 7 percent chose Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson.

These results suggest Ohio State students are similar to other young adults: a national poll of 18- to 29-year-olds by the Institute of Politics at Harvard this fall found that 55 percent of likely voters supported Obama, while 36 percent supported Romney.

The survey results indicate that no matter who the students want to be president, an overwhelming majority of Ohio State students – about three-quarters – think Obama will win the 2012 presidential election.

"Students definitely give an edge to President Obama, although support seems weaker than it was four years ago," said Kevin Freeman, program manager for the Politics, Society and Law Scholars (PSL) Program.

The PSL program is designed for high-achieving students with an interest in current political and legal issues in society, and Freeman has led the program for seven years.

The survey found that more than a third of Ohio State students – 37 percent – said they did not consider themselves a member of any political party.

Student support for the Democratic and Republican parties was nearly identical – 28 percent called themselves Democrats and 26 percent said they were Republicans.

"Students are reluctant to label themselves," Freeman said.

"For some, I think it is a practical decision – they just don't want party phone calls and mailings. But many seem to lean toward one party or the other, but don't want to align themselves in an official way."

As Ohio State students considered which candidate to vote for, they seemed to be most concerned about the same pocketbook issues that worry other Americans, results suggested. About 59 percent said they were not satisfied with the current federal involvement in reducing student debt.

"Students are concerned and wary right now. There are some who want to finish their degree faster, so they incur less debt," Freeman said.

"But many students I talk to are concerned that if they get out in the working world faster, there won’t be jobs available for them yet."

The three issues that students said would most influence their vote were the national debt and deficit, unemployment rate and healthcare. Between 84 and 88 percent of students listed those three issues as extremely or very important, meaning they were essentially tied.

Freeman said he was surprised that social issues weren’t seen as important as the economic issues by Ohio State students.

President Obama's job performance received mixed reviews from students, with 40 percent approving, 35 percent disapproving and 25 percent saying they were indifferent.

But a majority didn't think Romney could do a better job, with 57 percent saying he would not make an effective president.

This sample of students was definitely engaged in the political process, with 96 percent saying they are registered to vote and only 3 percent saying they probably or definitely will not vote.

About the survey

The survey included 450 undergraduate students at Ohio State who were eligible to vote and who responded to the survey between Oct. 10 and Oct. 24. The students were contacted by email and answered the questions on a secure website. In all, 3,000 students were contacted to take part.

The margin of error in the survey was plus or minus five percent.

All students responded after the first presidential debate, and the last responses were received after the final debate.

The survey was conducted by Ohio State’s Center for the Study of Student Life, on behalf of the Politics, Society and Law Scholars program at Ohio State.

For a copy of the survey, please contact Jeff Grabmeier.

The Ohio State University

Founded in 1870, The Ohio State University is a world-class public research university and the leading comprehensive teaching and research institution in the state of Ohio. With more than 63,000 students (including 56,000 in Columbus), a major medical center, 14 colleges, 80 centers, and 175 majors, the university offers its students tremendous breadth and depth of opportunity in the liberal arts, the sciences, and the professions.

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Election 2012 Ohio State Infographic
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