The Institute of Politics at Harvard University conducted a study seeking to demonstrate the potential political weight college students may lever during the 2004 elections, but a number of Duke professors expressed surprise and skepticism at the study's findings.
According to the study, three out five undergraduates - or about 59 percent of the approximately one-thousand undergraduates who took the survey - said that they would "definitely be voting." As a result of these findings, Dan Glickman, director of the Institute and former U.S. Cabinet Secretary and Congressman, said "campus kids" can be a pivotal force during election time, comprising an "enormous reservoir" of voters.
Many Duke professors, however, said they are surprised with the conclusions drawn from the study's results, noting that undergraduates are generally an apathetic group of voters.
Political Science Professor Peter Fish said he is skeptical about the proposed voting enthusiasm expressed by college students and said the information released in the study is misleading. "College students are not known for turning out in large numbers at an election," he said.
Fish explained that many registered voters who view voting as a civic obligation may have been compelled to state they had voted when, in fact, they had not.
John Transue, assistant professor of political science, agreed and said that based on past tendencies, college students are neither a cohesive voting block nor a substantial voting population. Additionally, he said the study is merely "reiterating what we already knew."
Assistant Professor of Political Science James Hamilton wrote in an e-mail that one interesting conclusion drawn from the study-that undergraduates consider themselves more conservative than liberal regarding economic issues - goes against notions that college students are 'liberal' on all issues."
The study suggested that a significant number of college students are conservative on social issues.
Transue added that people are often inclined to say they are conservative, although they are not willing to cut social programs when they vote. "Americans in general are philosophically conservative but operationally liberal," he said.
The study also found fairly evenly divided partisan divisions among undergraduates. Twenty-nine percent of college students consider themselves Democrats and another 26 percent deemed themselves Republicans. Forty-one percent descibed themselves as independent.
Harvard's study also demonstrated that 74 percent of undergraduates are convinced that employment after graduation will be challenging.
"The fact that 74 percent of the undergrads feel it will be difficult to find a permanent job after college reflects the poor job market," Hamilton said.
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