By Erik Kjer, News Editor; POL 2001, Contributors Originally published in Issue 5, Volume 33 of The University Register on November 6, 2020
As you’ve probably heard by now, 2020 is an election year and that means Political Science students have conducted their regular voter survey. Although COVID-19 has dramatically changed how students are voting and how the survey is conducted, the students were still able to poll students online. The survey was available between October 15 and October 24 and collected data from approximately 28% of the student body. University of Minnesota students expressed overwhelming support for Democratic challengers Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and strongly preferred DFL candidates over their GOP challengers in the Senate and House races. Although students are continuing to analyze the data, they have assembled some early analyses that they have shared with the University Register.
Students favor Joe Biden (81.1%) over incumbent Donald Trump (14.3%). In the Senate race Democratic incumbent Tina Smith had a 76.2% lead over Republican candidate Jason Lewis (16.1%). In the MN 7th House of Representatives district, Democrat Colin Peterson is the student body’s favorite (69.8%) over republican Michelle Fischbach (15.5%).
Students also reported high levels of engagement in regards to the presidential election, though far less interest in the Senate, House and Minnesota’s legislative races.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 on Minnesota and the Morris Campus, students surveyed were asked if the virus had impacted their voting plans. Most students (55%) responded that the coronavirus had not impacted how they planned to vote, but nearly 61% of students also stated they would be voting via an absentee ballot. The coronavirus pandemic and the existing political environment have also generated significant concerns about the integrity of our electoral systems. The survey sought to explore how students felt about this uncertainty and asked students if they were concerned that votes be tampered with or otherwise be in such dispute that their rightful impact on the election may not properly resolve. Most students reported the COVID-19 situation caused a significant degree of concern with some 62.3% of students reporting they were “extremely” or “moderately” concerned that the votes in other states would not be fully counted.
Does this fear cross party lines, or was one party more fearful than the other? About 80% of those identifying as or leaning to the Democrats expressed a high level of concern, compared to 50% of Republican identifiers and 46% of Independents. 5.3% of Democrats said they were “Not Very Concerned” or “Not Concerned at All”, whereas Republicans had 33.4% of respondents saying the same. With President Trump’s rhetoric about mail-in ballots and all the fuss he’s made about “knowing the result on Election Night”, this may not be not surprising.
A final issue that has become increasingly prominent during this election cycle have been the widespread demonstrations calling for criminal justice reform or the abolition of restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19. The survey asked students about their protest activity. 97 students responded that they went to some kind of Black Lives Matter protest, while protest activity in regards to coronavirus restrictions was almost non-existent, with just 4 students stating they attended an “anti-mask or anti-shutdown” protest.
An analysis shows that about one-third of the BLM student protesters came from low income backgrounds, but the highest number of participating students came from high income backgrounds, with 42.5% of protest participants coming from wealthier families. This shows that the students who are most likely to attend a BLM protest come from low or high income backgrounds.
Students are continuing to analyze the data they received and the University Register will likely share more results in its next issue.
Image on top courtesy of bbc.uk.co