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Straw poll aims to boost Duke's conservative voice

Liberal students are often perceived as the leaders in activism on college campuses, but this week Duke College Republicans is responding to its Democratic counterparts by holding a straw poll of students.

Students who identify themselves as Republicans were invited Monday to vote for the party's presidential nomination and answer other questions in an informal poll. Balloting will continue today on the West Campus Plaza and in the Marketplace.

Sophomore Vikram Srinivasan, an executive board member of College Republicans, proposed the event. He said he wanted to draw media attention to an overlooked group-young conservatives.

"When the media talks about youth as a voting bloc, they usually focus on it as a liberal movement," he said. "The coverage of young conservatives has been kind of sparse."

Srinivasan added that he hopes the straw poll will encourage young conservatives to match the energy often associated with liberal movements.

"Young liberal organizations have probably been more aggressive in mobilizing their voting power, so I think we are behind the curve on that and this event will help us in that regard," he said.

Sophomore David Bitner, president of the Duke Conservative Union and a member of College Republicans, said young conservatives are rarely polled as a voting bloc. He said he was hopeful this could attract media attention to the event.

Bitner said young conservatives should not be ignored, especially at Duke.

"Institutions like Duke tend to produce the professional and political elite, so this should give us numbers which are important to the party," he said. "You walk around here and there are so many people who want to be lawyers and doctors and bankers and politicians. Clearly the student body at Duke will constitute a powerful group within society."

Junior Samuel Tasher, chair of College Republicans, said the data collected could benefit the Republican candidates.

"Fred Thompson doesn't poll well with women, but if half the women on campus vote for Fred Thompson, that is something he could use," Tasher said.

He added that College Republicans will not officially endorse a candidate in the primary, but support all of the candidates equally until the nomination is made. Tasher said he would follow Ronald Reagan's "11th commandment," "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican," and not use any data to detract from a Republican candidate.

However, many Republicans said they are unhappy with the overall field of candidates in the primary. Tasher said one question asked students how they felt about the options. He said he personally was pleased with the group.

"I would have liked the ultimate savior to come through, like Reagan, but sometimes it is good to have differences of opinion so that you can pick a candidate based on issues," he said.

Bitner said he was not impressed with any candidate from either party.

"I really don't see any candidate who has the statesman-like qualities that this country needs," he said. "The two frontrunners in the Democratic primary are just absolutely unacceptable, particularly Hillary Clinton. I have a deep-seated loathing for her."


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