With the 2016 presidential election closing in fast, politics have become a common part of daily conversation. Strong opinions seem to be dividing the world of social media and the mainstream media has chosen sides like gamblers at a prize-fighting match.
So what do Norwich students think?
In the days after the first debate, we decided to find out by conducting an unscientific survey. This was the first-ever poll gauging the political sentiments of Norwich students. We polled a total of 283 male and 118 female students, plus 9 who chose not to identify, completely at random, for a total of slightly more than 400 students. That’s a little less than a fifth of the student body. The polls were anonymous to remove any chance of biased results.
In a fairly surprising outcome to us, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party won, securing support from 145 of the students, which is 35 percent of the total polled. Polling at a close second was Donald Trump, with the support of 33 percent of the respondents. Trailing in distant third place was Hillary Clinton, with 15 percent of the vote. Jill Stein, of the Green Party received 1 percent of the poll.
In all, 16 percent of Norwich students surveyed were undecided or voting for other candidates. Some popular other choices include Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Chuck Norris, General James Mattis and Harambe. Another popular choice that was written in was “anyone else.”
The breakdown between male and female students on who they would vote for President revealed some differences, with male voters going 34 percent for Trump versus females 27 percent. There was little difference in the percentages for Johnson and Clinton, 15 percent for males and 16 percent for females, however, 19 percent of females voted for “Other” compared to 14 percent of male voters. In a sign of civic engagement, 77 percent said they were registered to vote; 23 said they were not.
The poll revealed that students who consider themselves Independent totaled nearly half the student body, 48 percent, compared to 37 percent who identified as Republican and 14 percent as Democrat. That result runs somewhat counter to the common perception that Norwich has a more conservative student body, and may reflect the trend among Millennials to reject party labels.
The fact that Norwich is a military school and most students, whether corps or traditional, have a connection to military either through friends or family is generally considered the reason for a more conservative campus. A percentage of the school has either enlisted in the military or is planning to commission. All of this combined tends to mean, according to conventional wisdom, that the students lean to the political right.
So what brought this rise of a third party candidate to Norwich?
For those that don’t know, Gary Johnson was formerly a two-term governor of New Mexico. He held office as a Republican, though he has since denounced the party. As a Libertarian, he is much more conservative than past nominees, which perhaps has allowed him to appeal to a much broader base than that party has traditionally reached. The unpopularity of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump likely also plays a factor in Johnson’s appeal this year.
When speaking with Johnson supporters around campus, the overwhelming reason he has secured their vote is that he is much less divisive than either Clinton or Trump. His policies tend to straddle the fence of the Republican and Democrat parties. On one hand, he is pro-choice, very supportive of the LGBTQ community and is against the war on drugs. On the other, he is heavily in favor of a smaller government, pro-second amendment and believes in reducing the influence of the Internal Revenue Service. He is against free college tuition, and does not want to have Citizens United overturned, but believes in global warming and does not agree with cuts to Planned Parenthood or in limiting immigration.
I think this appeals to the college-age student and Millennials. This generation is much more tolerant of those that are different from themselves. They want the government to leave them alone as they go about their lives and want to be afforded as much privacy as possible.
Johnson, however, has recently been heavily criticized for his lack of foreign policy knowledge. Republicans and Democrats alike warn that a vote for a third party will only help their opponents. The question is: will this deter his supporters or not? And will the 2nd debate and turmoil in the Trump campaign after the release of the video in which he revealed obscene comments on women change any opinions?
Let us know your thoughts on this survey, as well as your thoughts on the election, on our Facebook Page and at the Norwich Guidon website!
We’ll pass along other information gathered from the survey in the near future.
For information on Gary Johnson, here are two helpful links: