On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I’ve visited three different off-campus JMU apartment complexes in Harrisonburg. Part of the purpose in doing so was to assess the opinions of the students regarding the 2012 presidential election. The general theory is that JMU students who registered to vote in Harrisonburg in 2008 supported Barack Obama by huge margins and helped him to capture the city last time.
For a bit of historical perspective, in the 2004 presidential election, when students had to vote in their hometowns rather than at their college or university, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections about 11,000 people voted in Harrisonburg. George W. Bush won about 6,100 or 55.9%. In 2008, John McCain had slightly less votes than Bush did four years prior, but only took 41.2% as around 14,500 people voted in the city. While about 1,000 more people voted in Harrisonburg in 2004 as they did in 2000, 3,500 more showed up in 2008 as compared to 2004. A large portion of this increase was no doubt due to changes in Virginia law, which allows students to vote where they attend university.
So one important question to consider is will JMU break heavily for President Barack Obama this November? With this thought in mind, I asked the JMU students two questions. Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, if the election were held today, which of the candidates would you support?
Now, a considerable number of students were not at home at the time of my visit, a handful was not registered to vote, some were registered in their hometowns in other states, and still others refused to answer. However, 108 students did respond. Perhaps not surprisingly, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won a plurality, 46 or 42.6%. Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, finished in second place with 30 votes or 27.8%. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, was a distant third with 3 votes or 2.8%, Jill Stein, the Green candidate, was fourth at 2 votes or 1.9%, and, although not a candidate, one student planned to write-in Representative Ron Paul. Even though he is listed on the Virginia ballot, none of the students mentioned Constitution Party candidate, Virgil Goode. However, you should note that a sizable portion of respondents, 26 students or 24.1% stated that they are undecided.
If these survey numbers are indicative of the entire student population, then the race is still pretty fluid at JMU. As expected, Barack Obama is ahead, but not by an insurmountable margin.
I assume that whichever candidate or campaign works the most diligently to court these undecided voters will not only win the JMU vote, but also likely claim Harrisonburg as well. Toward that end, rumors swirl that President Obama will visit JMU prior to the election as he did back in 2008. And what sort of impact did the second presidential debates make? What will happen? We’ll find out soon!