Madison Liberty was on JMU’s Commons from 10 AM to 2 PM on Thursday, January 26th, conducting an open poll of JMU students on their preferred candidate for U.S. President. The winner was Texas Congressman Ron Paul. With a sample size of 97 students, there’s a significant margin of error that suggests President Obama could be the actual preference of JMU students. However, we can conclusively say that among JMU students, Ron Paul is the overwhelming preference for the Republican nomination, and is the only candidate who could displace the incumbent President. That result represent a radical departure from national polling of all registered voters in the Republican race, where Gallup reports Newt Gingrich (31%) and Mitt Romney (25%) as the frontrunners for the nomination, with Ron Paul (13%) and Rick Santorum (13%) battling for third.
Our poll was carefully constructed to limit biases, but some are inevitable in a time and resource-constrained poll: as mentioned, the margin of error permits the possibility of Obama winning an actual election on JMU’s campus. Also our poll was voluntary and its participants self-selective, likely resulting in an overrepresentation of especially partisan and politically active students. However, considering the low voting rates for young Americans (just 51% in 2008 for 18-29 year olds, and that was an historic high) this bias actually makes our poll more representative of likely voters, an arguably superior measure than Gallup’s polling of simply registered voters. We advertised in The Breeze, in table tents, and with fliers around campus, reaching a broad audience of JMU students and successfully limiting our advertising bias. Haven taken these sources of sampling bias into account, we feel confidently that our poll was sufficiently representative to accurately reflect the political leanings of JMU’s student community. JMU is torn between Congressman Paul and President Obama, and today, Paul won.