Tufts votes

Undergrads a force in presidential election

Tufts students registered and voted in large numbers in the 2004 presidential election, a finding that goes against the grain of what is expected for college students.

According to a survey of 445 students conducted by Kent Portney’s political science class, “Public Opinion and Survey Research,” nearly 86 percent had registered to vote and of that number, more than 90 percent voted—numbers that are much higher than those for the general public.

“Voter turnout among the regular public was slightly over 50 percent,” said Portney, professor of political science, “and traditionally, college students have poor voting records.”

In his report about the survey, Portney noted that President Lawrence S. Bacow, in his speech at matriculation ceremonies last fall, issued a challenge to the entering class to participate in the presidential election.

Said Portney, “Tufts University takes a great deal of pride in promoting the idea that its undergraduate students are, and should be, highly engaged in the political process…There is little question that the reputation of Tufts holds that the university’s students are among the most politically active in the nation.”

Portney’s public opinion class traditionally devises a research project involving a survey. The students choose the topic, design a questionnaire, and each student submits a hypothesis and writes a research paper on the findings. Last fall’s survey was conducted on the Internet with the assistance of the Office of Institutional Research. To encourage participation, students taking the survey had the chance to win an iPod. Funding from the University College of Citizenship and Public Service covered the cost of the iPod as well as expenses connected with conducting the survey.