Students’ voting patterns may be changing, but will it matter?

After overwhelming turnout for the Democratic side of the ticket in 2008, thanks largely to President Obama, many students may be changing their political sentiments, albeit slowly. Real Clear Politics recently published an article focused on Stanford graduate students whose political leanings may be changing.

Prop 19 proponents handed out stickers to White Plaza passersby on Thursday (Photo Credit: Jenny Chen).
The article suggests that many students, while not changing parties, are becoming more open to voting Republican. Damen Spacek, who decided not to identify with the Democratic Party, told Real Clear Politics, “I want to keep my options open.” While many students are still voting Democrat this year, they’re doing so with less enthusiasm and with less confidence than they did when they cast their votes for Obama and his coattail riders in 2008.

A recent poll conducted by the Stanford Review indicated that approximately 83% of undergraduates on campus voted for Barack Obama in 2008, and only 16% for John McCain. Yet only 57% of those responders currently consider themselves to be Democrats, with 11% Republican and 26% Independent.

Students stop by the Yes on 19 table to get their "Yes we cannabis" stickers. (Jenny Chen)
If Obama’s popularity truly has waned on campus, then perhaps more of those independent voters will take the plunge and vote Republican in this election.

But questioning the party leanings of Stanford students is a futile activity if students don’t actually vote, which could be the case. However, if Obama isn’t the reason why many students go to the polls on November 2, then perhaps Proposition 19 will be.

Prop 19 would legalize the possession, production, and sale of marijuana for people over the age of 21. About 8 students showed up in White Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 28 to garner support for the proposition by handing out stickers to passersby.

At least a third of the people going through White Plaza, both on bike and on foot, accepted a sticker from the Prop 19 advocates. Sticker recipients usually seemed to have knowledge of the measure. Of the California respondents to the Review Poll, 88% indicated that they knew of Prop 19.

Support for Prop 19 could drive more students to the polls, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it will help the Democrats. Many independents could vote for Prop 19 but then follow their fiscal libertarian streak in voting for Republican candidates. Perhaps only exit polling will reveal the true effect of Prop 19 and an Obama-less ticket.

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