If Hillsdale students represented the entire United States, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson might feel comfortable about clinching the Republican presidential nomination.
In a straw poll conducted last week, Hillsdale College Republicans asked students who attended the club’s “Screen on the Green” of the Sept. 16 GOP primary debate who they would vote for were the election the next day. Students cast their votes on paper ballots following the debate on Galloway Residence’s lawn.
Carson took 23 percent of 144 votes. Sen. Marco Rubio, in second place, received 18 percent, and former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina was a close third at 17 percent.
“I think it’s very interesting that we’re skewed far away from the national polls,” College Republicans President senior Sam Holdeman said.
In another straw poll conducted by the College Republicans at the Source on Sept. 1, Carson vied with Rubio for the students’ favor. Rubio beat Carson by only 1 percent of the 160 votes cast: 22 – 21.
“Since such a large group of students viewed the debate, I think the debate may have led to a change in ratings,” College Republicans Events Coordinator sophomore Morgan Brownfield said. “However, there’s a lot of other important factors to consider, such as the portion of the student body that was polled. That may have influenced the ratings.”
“In both groups, there was a larger population of freshman and a larger population of those interested in politics,” Brownfield said, noting that the poll “wasn’t scientific.”
“Carson’s popularity… was a little bit of a surprise to me, but I guess it shouldn’t have been considering he’s second in many national polls, and Hillsdale students don’t particularly like Trump,” said junior Chris Pudenz, who helped conduct the post-debate poll as head resident assistant of Galloway.
Trump received 4 percent of the votes in the Source poll and 3 percent of the votes in the poll at the debate.
Holdeman thought demographics have something to do with the disparity between Hillsdale’s poll and the national ones.
“Trump tends to appeal to an older crowd,” he said.
Brownfield had a different take on the disparity.
“This likely has to do with the school’s emphasis on statesmanship and prudence,” she said, implying students think that Trump lacks these qualities.
Brownfield said the club uses student opinions for its operations.
“We like to conduct these polls in order to see what the campus consensus is regarding Republican candidates so that we can better serve the student body by possibly bringing those candidates to campus or organizing student workers on their campaigns,” she said.
More opportunity for conversation and involvement might be coming soon. Holdeman anticipates the College Republicans will conduct polls at some of the group’s upcoming events, and Brownfield said they’ll likely conduct one after the Oct. 28 debate.
“It’s important because it sparks campus conversation and involvement,” Brownfield said. “In addition, it gives students a capacity to engage with the ideology they’re learning in class.”