While nationwide polls reached out to thousands of people to predict the outcome of this presidential election, a first year seminar was polling the 2,500-student-strong Lafayette College.
Math professor Gary Gordon’s Polling and Politics class found that 72 percent of the students who responded to a voluntary poll would have voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Republican nominee and president-elect Donald Trump received 15.6 percent of the survey’s vote on Oct. 25.
The students of the class set out to assess the voting makeup of Lafayette. A voluntary survey asked students to align themselves based on class year, gender, ethnicity and party affiliation. It also asked who respondents which presidential nominee would receive their votes.
“We were trying to answer questions, like, ‘Is there a gender gap at Lafayette? Are women more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton than men?’ – which turns out is true,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a huge gap, but there’s a gap.”
The results gave Clinton a 71 percent lead over Trump among females on campus. Her lead among males was 40 percent over Trump.
However, the survey was voluntary, and 247 respondents were female, compared to the 181 male respondents. Andrew Schmid ’20, a student in the class, said he worked on a way to fix the weighting of the results so that they were more representative of the student body as a whole.
“I tried to balance it more so that the classes were represented equally…and gender, as well,” Schmid said. “I think about 60 percent were female, and only 51 percent of campus is female, so I tried to reduce the weighting a bit. It didn’t really change the results much.”
Natural science majors were more likely to support Clinton, with 80.6 percent saying they would vote for her. Clinton supporters were still the majority among the responding humanities majors, although with less of a majority: 62.2 percent said they’d vote for her and 24.3 percent said they’d vote for Trump.
Gordon said that the actual percentage of students who supported Trump is most likely higher than 15 percent.
“I’d be surprised if you were to say what percentage of students actually support Trump, I’d be surprised if it were as low as 15 percent,” Gordon said. “I think that’s very, very low for a major party candidate. For whoever he is, for a major party candidate to be 15 percent is very low.”
Schmid said a surprising number of students chose the “other” option for a candidate over Clinton, Trump, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green party nominee Jill Stein.
“It was almost 7 to 8 percent, which was a lot considering there were already four other options,” Schmid said.
Gordon said he was surprised how the student body split itself along party lines. Forty-three percent declared Democratic, 20 percent Republican, 17 percent Independent and 19 percent unaffiliated.
As Schmid and Gordon saw, there were more first year respondents, 147, than any other year. But respondents among the other three classes were distributed fairly evenly.
The students also aimed to find out the issues Lafayette students felt most strongly about.
“I think it was pretty interesting to see, not so much what candidates were represented [on campus], but more the issues,” Schmid said.
The top two issues were ‘social issues’ and the ‘economy & jobs,’ with climate change coming in third.
“I thought more seniors would be interested in jobs than first years, but not really,” Gordon said. Fifty-nine percent of seniors in fact were most concerned with social issues, with only 46 percent being most concerned with jobs and the economy.
During Lafayette’s PBS election broadcast, “First Vote in a Polarized Age,” two students from the class, Cooper Ochsenhirt and Marie Bucklin, starting around 9:54 p.m., spent four minutes sharing results and answering questions about the survey.
According to Gordon, however, he wants them to emphasize the fact that the survey was optional and was not a political poll meant to predict anything.
The survey itself was very student-driven, according to Gordon, and the class picked all the questions themselves from previous surveys conducted by professional firms.
“We looked at past surveys from professional companies and we looked at what they were asking, what do we care about, and then as college students, what do we want to know about,” Schmid said.
According to the Northampton County Court, 89 voters registered their address under “Lafayette College” or “111 Quad Drive.” Of those 89, 63 were Democrat, 21 were Republican and six were third party.
In the Easton district, at their assigned polling station, about 76 percent of 962 votes were for Clinton. About 19 percent went to Trump, and 3.5 percent to Johnson.
Matt Mitterhoff ’17 contributed reporting.