In campus-wide poll, Obama eclipses former Eli Clinton

Posted Wednesday 3:55 p.m. He may be locked in a three-way dead heat in the latest polls of Iowa Democrats, but with one day to go before the voting begins in the 2008 presidential primaries, Senator Barack Obama has the residential-college vote all but locked up.

The Illinois Democrat was the top choice of 26.4 percent of undergraduates surveyed in a recent Yale Daily News poll, giving him more than twice the support of New York Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 — the only Yale graduate in the field — who registered 12.1 percent.

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Reed Reibstein
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With 42.3 percent of students saying they are still undecided, no other candidate even came close to matching that figure: the next-highest finisher was former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who won 3.7 percent of the vote. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who has represented the Nutmeg State since 1980, garnered just 0.2 percent support.

On the Republican side, the top vote-getter was maverick Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who pulled 3.2 percent of the vote. The next four finishers were former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 2.5 percent, Arizona Senator John McCain at two percent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 1.9 percent and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee at 1.2 percent.

The News’ poll — conducted online between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 and sent to the entire undergraduate student body — received 1,833 responses.

Despite Obama’s popularity on campus, students remain unconvinced that the first-term legislator will become the next president. Just 49 percent of his supporters and 34 percent of students overall think Obama will win the Democratic nomination, and only 28 percent of students believe he will be sworn in next January.

Clinton, by comparison, is likely to emerge as the Democratic nominee, according to 85 percent of her supporters and 57 percent of students overall. More than two-fifths of those polled — 43 percent — say they think Clinton will become the 44th president.

On the Republican side, students consider Giuliani to be the most likely nominee, with 32 percent saying he will represent the GOP in the general election. After sitting on a comfortable lead in national polls for much of last year, the former mayor has watched his numbers slide in recent weeks, and his campaign has come under fire for emphasizing later-voting states at the expense of Iowa and New Hampshire, whose residents will vote Jan. 3 and Jan. 8, respectively.

Romney — the man who has arguably devoted the most money and resources to winning those first two states — came in second in students’ predictions of the eventual nominees, garnering 26 percent of the pool. McCain came in third, with 17 percent, followed by Huckabee at 16 percent.

Clinton’s chief source of support comes from students who listed social issues as their primary concern in selecting a candidate. Of her backers, 27 percent identified issues such as abortion and gay marriage as their top concern, and another 26 percent pointed to foreign policy.

The numbers for Obama are similar: 27 percent of his supporters said foreign policy is the most important issue to them, and 19 percent identified social issues. But the former first lady registered a decisive lead among those most worried about the economy, with 18 percent of her supporters labeling it their most important issue, compared with only 8 percent for Obama.

Overall, foreign policy was the top concern of 24 percent of students, social issues of 20 percent and the economy of 14 percent. Seven percent pointed to energy and the environment, and 6 percent each said they considered health care and education most when choosing a candidate. Just 5 percent of students said the war in Iraq was most important to them, and terrorism — regularly among the top issues in national surveys of registered voters — came in at just 1 percent.

Obama’s support in the poll reflects national trends that indicate he draws much of his support from college-age and first-time voters. In a Des Moines Register poll released over the weekend, 72 percent of those supporting Obama said they will be caucusing for the first time Thursday.

In the News’ poll, 89 percent of students surveyed said they are registered to vote, 85 percent said they are eligible to vote in the primary elections and 62 percent said they intend to vote in this year’s primary. Of those signed up to vote, 30 percent said they are registered in Connecticut and 70 percent said they are registered elsewhere.

According to the poll, 55 percent of students are registered Democrats, 11 percent are registered Republicans, and 23 percent are Independent or have no party affiliation.

For more coverage of the primary races, visit “Yale on the Trail,” the News’ 2008 election blog — live from Iowa and New Hampshire — here.

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