With the Pennsylvania primary potentially determining the Democratic nominee today, college voters possess the ability to have a big impact on the outcome of the election.
“Historically, young people don’t vote in the same numbers as older people do,” said Joseph McLaughlin, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Everyone would hope that the enthusiasm which has been generated in this primary carries over [to future elections].”
Because of the amount of votes from the black and university communities, Philadelphia and its region should be overwhelmingly Sen. Barack Obama’s territory, McLaughlin said. However, the state is still leaning toward Sen. Hillary Clinton, as she leads by 9 percent, according to a Temple poll released earlier this month.
Obama has a strong base of support from young people in Pennsylvania with 79 percent, compared with Clinton’s 12 percent of likely Democratic voters ages 18 to 29, according to the Temple poll.
These numbers, along with highest registration gains in the city around college campuses including University of Pennsylvania as well as Temple and Drexel University, should be a good indicator for Obama, as registration can forecast turnout. Although, if this demographic fails to arrive at the polls today, it will hurt him, McLaughlin said.
“Obama has excited the young voters because his message is that it’s time to rise above the highly partisan special interest driven politics that probably a lot of younger voters see as a legacy of the Bush era, and he represents a fresher start and he is the kind of candidate that they hope that their generation is going to be responsive to,” McLaughlin said.
Sophomore tourism and hospitality management major Candice Moore agrees that Obama is a young fresh face.
“I feel like he addresses a lot of issues that college students can relate to and [that] African Americans [can relate to],” she said.
Clinton, too, has developed an effective strategy targeting the younger generations by using her daughter to campaign for her, McLaughlin said.
“From what I’ve seen of Chelsea [Clinton], she’s doing a very good job for her mom, and I think they were smart to use her and maybe should have gotten her involved earlier,” he said.
Looking ahead to the general election in November, Clinton holds more Democratic votes that Obama does against presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.
Among Obama supporters, 58 percent of voters will vote for Clinton whereas 48 percent of Clinton supporters will vote for Obama, if he wins the nominee. In both groups, 21 percent plan to vote for McCain in November. Another 6 percent and 13 percent of voters would not vote if Obama or Clinton, respectively, did not win the nomination, according to the Keystone Poll by Franklin & Marshall College released last week.
“I feel the [Obama] movement is too far off to the left,” said Beth Tucker, a freshman majoring in biology, who plans to vote for Clinton today. “I’d probably vote for McCain [in November]. It’s the lesser of the two evils.”
Not all Obama supporters will stick to party lines come November.
“I will vote for Hillary if she wins the popular vote,” said Chris Banks, sophomore journalism major and Obama supporter. “But if she wins because of superdelegates, I will vote for John McCain out of spite.”
But sophomore film major Andy Smith said there is another option for Obama supporters.
“I wouldn’t vote for Hillary, but I don’t know if I’d vote for John McCain,” he said, adding that he could vote for Obama as a write-in candidate.
Heather Harvey, a senior biology major, will cast her vote for Clinton today, but if Obama wins, she said she will remain loyal to the Democratic Party in November.
“I don’t want Bush’s ideas anywhere near the White House ever again,” she said.
While Maggie Blazick, a junior psychology major, plans to vote for Obama today, citing his speech on race last month in Philadelphia as winning her over, she will vote for whichever Democratic candidate receives the nominee in the general election.
“It was a very close race in my mind,” she said about choosing between the two candidates. “Ideally, they could be on the ballot together [in November].”
Amanda Snyder can be reached at email@example.com.