A Politic poll of Yale undergraduates reveals that students are liberal, supportive of Obama
By Eric Stern
Since reaching the lowest approval rating of his Presidency in late fall — around 40 percent according to most surveys — Barack Obama has rebounded in the polls, thanks in part to the topsy-turvy Republican Presidential primary and recent economic optimism. (A mid-February Rasmussen poll pegged the President’s job approval rating at 51 percent.)
A recent poll conducted by The Politic from February 7 to February 8, however, found that Yale undergraduates overwhelmingly approve of President Obama and support his 2012 reelection campaign wholeheartedly.
Of the 987 students polled, 67 percent have a favorable view of President Obama, compared with just 22 percent that reported an unfavorable view (11 percent were unsure). These numbers are markedly higher than those of Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose approval rating — 27.5 percent — is dwarfed by his unapproval rating — 56 percent. (Yalies view former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich unfavorably by an astounding margin of 82.5 to 4.7 percent.)
These findings recall a poll conducted by the Yale Daily News days before the 2008 election, when a survey of undergraduates revealed that students planned on supporting then-Senator Obama over Republican Senator John McCain by a margin of 81 to 12 percent. (At the time of the poll, 4 percent of students said they were still undecided while 3 percent planned to vote for a third-party candidate.)
Indeed, although the President’s approval has deteriorated somewhat since his election in 2008 — a CNN poll days before his inauguration pegged his approval rating at 84 percent — his support remains remarkably high among Yale undergraduates.
Yalies also report being far more enthusiastic about the 2012 elections than members of the general public. 89 percent of students polled say they plan on voting in the 2012 elections. (3.7 percent say they do not intend to vote and 7.4 percent are not eligible.) These numbers bode well for President Obama.
In a hypothetical match-up between the President and a generic Republican challenger, the incumbent triumphs by a margin of 73 to 17 percent (another 10 percent of students remain undecided). In a finding that echoes national trends, President Obama’s support is significantly higher among female respondents (77 percent) than among males (70 percent).
The President support actually increases, however, when his Republican opponent is given a name. Among decided Yale voters, the President would win reelection by a margin of 80 to 20 percent against Romney, 83 to 17 percent against Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and 91 to 9 against both Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum.
The President would also win another four years in the White House if pitted against former Godfather’s Pizza mogul Herman Cain (93 to 7 percent), comedian Stephen Colbert (56 to 44 percent) or Dean of Yale College Mary Miller (60 to 40 percent).
Yale students are far more likely to identify as liberal (41 percent) or very liberal (18 percent) than they are as conservative (10 percent) or very conservative (3 percent). Another 28 percent of students identify as moderate. Again, the full results reveal a striking gender gap: 64 percent of women identify as liberal or very liberal (compared with 54 percent of men) and 10 percent of women identify as conservative or very conservative (compared with 17 percent of men). In fact, 74 percent of very conservative respondents were male.
Liberals are more united in their support for President Obama than conservatives are in their support for his Republican challengers. Not a single very liberal respondent would vote for Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, while just one out of 161 would support Newt Gingrich. The President’s support among those very conservative students, however, ranges from 13 percent against Santorum to 21 percent against Paul. Among Yale moderates, President Obama would win reelection with support ranging from 71 percent against Romney to 96 percent against Santorum.
Although ideology is fairly consistent among all students, there are a few interesting results. The most liberals and very liberals are found in the Class of 2012 — 67 percent of seniors. (Freshmen and juniors are most likely to identify as conservative or very conservative.) Approval of the President — among those that registered an opinion — is highest among those in the Class of 2013 (79.5 percent) and lowest among those in the Class of 2014 (69.2 percent). Dean Miller’s performance, however, is strongest among those in the Class of 2015 (54 percent) and weakest among those in the Class of 2012 (25 percent).
An examination of trends among residential colleges also yields noteworthy results. Students in Jonathan Edwards College are the most likely to identify as very conservative (6 percent), compared with not a single respondent in Berkeley or Branford. Davenport College, home to former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as conservative commentator William F. Buckley, conspicuously contains the highest number of self-identified very liberals (24 percent of all Davenporters).
Among decided respondents, President Obama’s approval rating is highest in Calhoun — 83 percent — and lowest in Pierson — 64 percent. Paul’s hypothetical support ranges from 10 percent in Davenport to a respectable 25 percent in Saybrook. Cain interestingly performs the worst among those in Timothy Dwight (earning just 2 percent of the vote) and best among those in Pierson and Silliman (11 percent in both). Trumbull favors Colbert, on the other hand, more than any other residential college. If only Trumbullians were to decide to 2012 election, the comedian would triumph by an astounding margin of 56 to 44 percent.
Not surprisingly, Miller, the former Dean of Saybrook College, does well among Saybrugians (she earns 45 percent of their vote). But Pierson is the only college to favor the Yale administrator outright — 52 to 48 percent. (Miller performs the worst — 71 to 29 percent — among students from Calhoun.)
The Politic sent out an email to randomly selected Yale undergraduates at 8:30 pm on the evening of Tuesday, February 7. In the next 24 hours, 987 students responded, yielding a margin of error of + or – 2.81 (assuming a 95 percent confidence interval).