As announcement season gives way to debate season in the 2020 race, College Reaction teamed up with WBRU – a multimedia news and opinion source – to gauge student views on meaningful political storylines.
One of the principle findings of the WBRU/College Reaction poll was that students consider climate change to be the most important issue in the presidential election. Below are some of the striking conclusions from the poll, which was conducted on May 28/29th and included 514 current college students at 4-year institutions.
Despite the emphasis on adjusting course on climate, spirited climate-stewards like Jay Inslee have not caught major support from young people. Only 2% of those who identified climate change as the most significant issue said they believe Inslee best reflects their stance on the topic; whereas Joe Biden grabbed 22% of that same population.
We're running into a similar dilemma as in our Presidential Support Index - despite youth support for female candidates and candidates of color, they are lining up in Biden's corner. In this case, our findings indicate that climate change is the main driver of the youth vote in 2020, yet candidates with robust policy are keeling out of contention. Of course, it's worth noting that Biden has sketched out a still-ambitious plan on the environment, aiming to be emissions-neutral by 2050. But he's still not the climate candidate.
A few factors that might be driving Biden's climate-lead:
1. Young people want climate change legislation, but recognize legislative realities. Biden's plan is daring, but lacks the high-flown proclamations of a Green New Deal document, and might land more smoothly in a split Congress.
2. Students want an Inslee, but will settle for a Biden. It's possible that a plurality of students know Inslee's vision, but want to aim for a candidate - and a plan - they think has a better chance of winning. Young people might be entering the electability game, and drafting a candidate with solid climate cred who has a better shot at winning.
• Of those who say climate change is most important issue, 21.5% support Biden, 16.5% support Sanders, 12.7% support Buttigieg, 11.4% support O’Rourke, 11.4% support Warren (1.9% support Jay Inslee).
• 38.8% of Dems say a candidate who can beat Trump is more important
than a candidate that agrees with them on policy.
• Climate change (30.9%), Economy (16.4%), Health care (12.0%) are most
important issues (student debt is 6th).
• 63.1% say they’re more likely to vote in 2020 after the recent passage of
abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama (47% are much more likely)
• 70.5% of Dems believe Congress should begin impeachment proceedings.
As the debates shake and winnow the current field, College Reaction and WBRU will continue to monitor the youth vote’s opinions.
General: College Reaction utilizes multiple measures throughout the polling process
to maximize accuracy, ensure internal and external validity, and provide reliable
Sampling: College Reaction has a customized approach to get the most accurate
randomized sample of students at each college. Samples are aimed to represent the
specific population of each college, demographic trends, and the national student
population at large.
Depending on the availability of public information and resources available to us, we
have a “non-probability” sample of recruited students who have opted-in to
participate in our surveys in exchange for a monetary incentive. We have focused our
efforts to minimize biases in our recruitment process through different randomizing
processes. College Reaction utilizes publicly available information and contacts a
randomized group of students with an offer to opt-in for receiving our polls in
exchange for an incentive.
College E-mail Address: We utilize students’ college email addresses to prevent
multiple responses. We collect demographic information from students. We compare
this data to each school’s demographic trends and the national student demographic
information to ensure that our sample of students are representative of the target
population. This data is also utilized in weighting responses for accurate results.
Survey process: College Reaction sends the survey designed by the client to the
requested sample of students via email. The email asks the respondent to complete
the attached survey. Student typically have 24 hours, or in case of long surveys certain
number of days, to fill out the given survey. There are a few factors that might impact
accuracy of the question process or introduce biases, such as question design, order,
and whether or not the respondent can be identified.
Question design: The response accuracy could be influenced by the subject of the
11 poll and the wording of the questions. The responsibility of designing questions and
the potential biases that it introduces to the outcomes falls on the client. College
Reaction is willing and able to provide assistance in survey design. College Reaction
takes active measures in the design of its polls to mitigate introduction of any biases
Weighting: The proportions have been weighted by gender and race according to
each respondent's self-identified response. The weights were generated by
comparing the sample proportion of each combination of gender and race to the
corresponding true proportion of college students in the fall of 2015. The true
proportion was found on the National Center for Education Statistics website under
the total fall enrollment for 2015.
The purpose of weighting the results is to provide a distribution of results that most
closely resembles the distribution had the entire population of college students been
surveyed. By weighting, the new results are based on a population that, percentage
wise, matches the demographics of college students across the nation. When
weighting is not conducted, certain demographics are vulnerable to
underrepresentation or overrepresentation.
Respondent anonymity: Identifiable responses introduce biases and lower response
rate. College Reaction utilizes an anonymous and de-identified survey approach.
Results: The responses to our polls are monitored for multiple responses and
accuracy of answers through tracking time spent on the survey, email address, and
other traceable web identifiers.
External Validity: Our goal is to provide information to our clients that are
generalizable to the larger target population, whether it is an individual college,
students within a state or region, or the national college student population. We
utilize measures during the recruitment, polling, and weighting process to give
weight to different factors that impact the external validity of our polls.
Why conventional sampling methods fail on the college level?
To obtain a randomized sample of an entire population, polling organization
commonly utilize random digit dialing which contacts a random sample of landline
and cellphone number in the United States. Although this process has some biases
and drawbacks, it provides a good sample of the US population. However, students
enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions make up around 6% of the
larger US population. What adds to the difficulty of surveying is the response rate;
reputable organizations have below 10% response rates. This means that using the
traditional method, each 1000 calls would yield to less than 5 responses. A typical
poll of 1,500 respondents would require approximately 300,000 phone calls. It could
take roughly 2 years to conduct a single randomizes digit dialing poll.
That is why College Reaction has started to utilize modern scientific methods to
understand the college population. We have a customized approach for every
school, to find the most representative set of students that can be obtained to answer
questions regarding various topics. Our approach utilizes a scientific approach with
swift modern technology to bring our clients polls as quickly as a day, while keeping
accuracy at the focus of our polling.
What’s different about College Reaction’s sample?
Some services provide a panel of student to conduct research about college
students. However, these services consist of a mix of panel without a centralized
recruitment or an intentional sample of students. At College Reaction, we recruit
students intentionally and scientifically. We generate our respondent panel from
reaching out to a large section of each campus to participate, rather than relying on a
snowball effect, which could introduce bias. We know who our participants are and
how they were recruited. For instance, we allow our clients to specify which lists of
schools they would like to include in their survey, whereas other services simply
include demographic tags like “Age 18-24” or “College student.” Our ability to offer
in-depth and customizable insights into the college demographic – and the diverse
segments within it – set us apart.