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Unlike elders, Virginia college students favor Sanders, Rubio

Posted at 10:42 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 08:32:18-05

RICHMOND, Va. — While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each carried Virginia in their respective presidential primary elections Tuesday, voting results among college students were quite different.

A computer analysis of election results from polling locations on or near university campuses in Virginia showed that college students strongly favored Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination and Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination.

The analysis aggregated the vote tallies for eight polling precincts that, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, contain large numbers of college students. VPAP, which makes campaign finance and other information available to the public, identified precincts associated with the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, James Madison University and Liberty University.

In Super Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Sanders received more than 74 percent of the votes cast in those college-associated precincts. Clinton won about 25 percent.

In contrast, among all voters statewide, Clinton beat Sanders, 64 percent to 35 percent.

In the Republican primary, at polling precincts on or near college campuses, Rubio took just over 50 percent of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz with 20 percent, Trump with almost 11.5 percent and John Kasich with about 8 percent.

That order differed significantly from the statewide results. Overall, 35 percent of Virginians who voted in the GOP primary favored Trump; 32 percent, Rubio; almost 17 percent, Cruz; and 9 percent, Kasich.

VPAP identified one precinct as closely affiliated with VCU. Capital News Service expanded the analysis by examining four precincts that include VCU student housing.

At those four locations, in the Democratic primary, 76 percent of the voters cast ballots for Sanders and 24 percent for Clinton. And in the Republican primary, 46 percent of the voters favored Rubio; 22 percent, Trump; 17 percent, Kasich; and 8 percent, Cruz.

One student supporter of Sanders said the Vermont senator’s message resonates with young people.

“Students vote for Sanders because they see a vision for the future with him … more social welfare and student debt relief,” George Knight, a VCU student advocate who worked the phones leading up to the election, said Wednesday. “With Clinton, there’s no overarching vision of what America could be. It’s just a continuation of the status quo.”

One Rubio supporter also expressed hope about the future while exiting the polls in Richmond on Tuesday.

“I voted for Marco Rubio because he’s a very optimistic candidate. He’s very articulate about a lot of values that I believe in,” said Chelsea, a VCU student who didn’t share her last name. “And so I really wanted to get my voice out there for a positive candidate who has a real vision for America’s future.”

Not every student who voted in Tuesday’s primary voted for the candidate that they thought represented their best opportunity for a bright future.

“I voted for Marco Rubio, not necessarily because I wanted him, but I just wanted someone beyond Donald Trump,” Jamie, also a VCU student, said at her polling place at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Richmond.

“I don’t really care between Hillary or Bernie Sanders. So I didn’t vote for either of them because I’d be fine with either one of them.”

By Matt Chaney/Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.