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Presidential primary poll finds Sanders leads among BU students

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the clear favorite Democratic primary candidate among Boston University students, according to a poll conducted Feb. 24 through Feb. 28 by The Daily Free Press.


While not getting majority support, Sanders led the poll, receiving 47.7 percent support from respondents who voted for a Democratic candidate. He was followed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 26.7 percent of the vote.

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has since dropped out of the race, came in third with 14.3 percent of the vote. Former Vice President Joe Biden followed with 4 percent.

Respondents took the poll through an online form, and votes were verified by confirming BU emails through the BU Directory. Only votes from currently-enrolled BU students were counted.

Dino Christenson, an associate professor of political science, said that the results of the student poll don’t come as a huge shock to him.

“I think Sanders is popular among the youth. It’s his key demographic,” Christenson said. “It’s interesting to see that that popularity has spanned an army of students here.”

The Daily Free Press verified 637 responses to the form. Among those, 596 people voted for a Democratic primary candidate and 69 people voted for a Republican candidate. Among respondents, 95.6 percent stated they are eligible to vote in the 2020 U.S. general election.

Of the 69 respondents who selected a Republican primary candidate, 68.1 percent voted for President Donald Trump, while 31.9 percent voted for former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

The poll also contained additional optional questions, which 456 people chose to answer. These questions involved voter registration, voting plans, party affiliation, Democratic candidate rankings and top issues.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the most common last choice for the Democratic nominee among respondents at 48.2 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at 23.2 percent.

82.9 percent of respondents stated they plan on voting in both the primary and general elections in 2020. They were followed by 14.5 percent who only plan on voting in the general, 2.2 percent who don’t plan to vote at all, and 0.4 percent who only plan to vote in the primary.

The poll found that 75.3 percent of respondents identify as Democrats. 10.1 percent identify as Independents, 6.8 percent identify as Republicans, 1.1 percent identify as Libertarians and 0.4 percent identify with the Green Party. The remaining 6.2 percent entered a different party or do not have a party affiliation.


The poll suggests that the top issue for BU students is climate change — 30.4 percent of respondents stated it was the issue that motivates them most to vote. Climate change was followed by social equality at 21.5 percent and health care at 19.1 percent.


When respondents ranked the Democratic candidates, Sanders led again but still did not obtain majority support on first choice. From these results, The Daily Free Press played out a ranked choice scenario, eliminating the lowest-polling candidate and re-allocating that candidate’s voters to their next choice until one candidate received a majority of the vote.

No candidate received a majority until all candidates other than Sanders and Warren were eliminated. Sanders won the ranked choice vote with 54.3 percent support, and Warren received the remaining 45.7 percent.

Among Sanders’ first-choice voters, Warren was the overwhelming second choice, at 79.9 percent, followed by Buttigieg at 10.1 percent.

The poll found that 77.7 percent of respondents would definitely vote for a Democratic nominee in the general election, even if it is not their first choice. 16 percent stated they might vote for the nominee depending on who it is, and 6.2 stated they would not vote for the nominee if it is not their first choice.

Christenson said that the ‘opt-in’ nature of the poll made the results more interesting, as most who took the poll had similar preferences.

“It’s interesting that those who are interested had a strong Sanders preference,” Christenson said, “and that they wanted to communicate that.”

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