Recently, I conducted a poll with my students at Columbia College. I asked 43 mostly-traditional age undergraduates four questions. The first three were:
- If the presidential election were held today for whom would you vote, Donald Trump, the Democratic candidate, someone else or wouldn’t vote?
- Regardless of your answer, who do you think will win?
- What is your party affiliation?
I was interested in doing political science, not sociology, so I didn’t ask demographic questions about sex, place of residence, church attendance and the like. Here are the results:
- 16 said they were Republicans, 19 said they were Democrats, and 11 said they were neither.
- 13 would vote for Trump, 19 would vote for the Democrat, and 11 would vote for someone else or not vote.
- 21 thought Trump would win and 21 thought the Democrat would win.
When I broke these responses down I got fairly predictable results:
- 12 of the 16 Republicans said they would vote for Trump.
- All 11 Democrats said they would vote for the Democrat.
- 9 of the 16 non-affiliates said they would vote for “other” or not vote, although six said they would vote for the Democrat.
Also I looked at how partisanship related to the prediction of the outcome of the vote. About half fell on party lines, and of the outliers it was close:
- 8 independents thought the Democrat would win.
- 6 independents thought Trump would win.
- 6 Republicans thought the Democrat would win
- 4 Democrats thought Trump would win.
The fourth question was: “What will be the two biggest issues in the 2020 campaign?" If you guessed immigration you would be right, but the margin was huge: 31 picked it and the next closest were the environment and health care with 12.
Of course the election will be held in early November 2020, not late February 2019, and literally anything can happen, including aliens visiting from the Planet Tralfamador, which might be less bizarre than several of the things that are actually likely to happen. Still, it’s always good to do the occasional reality check.
My sample leaned about as Republican as I would expect, based on class discussions. I was mildly surprised that those who chose between Trump and the Democrat prefer the Democrat by some margin but there was an equal split on who would win. This is likely due to the “somebody versus nobody” phenomenon, a problem for Democrats right now and for the foreseeable future.
Finally, immigration is even more of a hot button issue than I thought. It affects us Heartlanders less than most of the other options presented -- environment, crime, health care, infrastructure, personal character, taxes. Building that wall turns out to be a carbuncle on the American body politic.