Barack Obama – 39 votes (40.2%)
Mitt Romney – 5 votes (5.2%)
Rick Santorum – 4 votes (4.1%)
Others – 1 vote (Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, Stephen Colbert, Michelle Bachmann) (1 % each)
Thursday’s 2012 presidential straw poll, narrowly won by Republican Ron Paul, indicates a small surge in students’ interest in national politics. Paul’s supporters have often complained that the media ignores him, but he has nonetheless retained widespread support, especially amongst younger voters who see him as an alternative to extreme social conservatives like Rick Santorum.
As we face an unprecedented level of national debt, younger voters are starting to realize the implications of the government’s problems on their own lives. Students tend to overwhelmingly oppose the wars in the Middle East and support legalization of marijuana, as does Ron Paul. The government spends enormous amounts of money fighting ambiguous wars abroad and tracking down drug users, exacerbating the debt problem.
Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum all did very poorly in the poll, indicating that young conservative-leaning voters are frustrated with establishment Republicans and their divisive politics.
In light of the tremendous support Obama generated at JMU during his visit in 2008, his loss points to a sense of disillusionment amongst his supporters. The close polling of Paul and Obama demonstrates both frustration and optimism amongst JMU students at the beginning of what will surely be an exciting and polarizing election year.