Just one week before election day, College undergraduates who responded to a poll by The Dartmouth have sent a clear message regarding their choice for president -- Democratic candidate Al Gore, by a landslide.
According to the poll, 1,079 students -- or 62 percent -- plan to vote for Gore, which is nearly three times as many as those who indicated they would vote for Republican candidate George W. Bush, who received 23 percent of the votes.
Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received 9.5 percent of the votes, while 3.7 percent indicated they were undecided and 1.8 percent said they would vote for "others." Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party received four votes.
On Monday morning, The Dartmouth sent a BlitzMail message to all members of the classes of 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, asking whom they planned to vote for. By noon yesterday, 1,750 students, over one-third of the undergraduate population, had responded.
The results have surprised government professors and politically active students, who said they expected the breakdown to mimic national polls that reveal the tightest race in recent election years.
According to the most Gallup Poll, nationally, Bush is leading the presidential race with 47 percent of the votes, with Gore trailing at 44 percent.
In the 18 to 29 age category, 53 percent said they would vote for Bush, while Gore only commands 43 percent.
Assistant government professor Lynn Vavreck called the results "pretty surprising."
"The only thing that I can think of is that [either] there's something systematic about the students who answered the survey that would lead them to lean toward Gore, or Dartmouth students have just become really liberal."
Vavreck said she could not think of any systematic errors that would lead voluntary respondents to favor Gore more.
According to Vavreck, Gore is energetic and enthusiastic, which appeals to young people. Liberal social policies also tend to be popular for college-aged students.
Vavreck said liberal arts colleges' encouragement of the "free exchange of ideas allow a broader range of ideas to be thought about. Part of the idea of community is that you're very tolerant of other people's views ... That can extend to being tolerant of other people's lifestyles, which can be liberal positions."
Another explanation she offered for the discrepancy between The Dartmouth poll and national surveys is that organizations such as the Gallup Poll only sample likely voters, while The Dartmouth extended its questions to the entire campus.
Assistant government professor Dean Spiliotes, who expected students to vote according to their parents' party identification, was also very surprised by the outcome.
"Generally students reflect the voting preferences of their family and community," Spiliotes said.
He added that he was not surprised by Gore's lead in the polls, but was puzzled by the wide margin of the lead.
According to Spiliotes, a combination of factors might have been favorable for Gore -- his emphasis on the environment, the high representation of students from the traditionally Democratic northeastern states, Gore's targeted tax cuts for higher education and the lack of compelling issues that affect young people.
There is no impetus for change of the administration, which gave the incumbent Democratic party the advantage, Spiliotes said.
The major issues of the campaigns -- social security privatization, prescription drug subsidies and Medicare -- do not mobilize the younger segment of the population.
"If there is a change it wouldn't come from the young voters," he said.
Although Dartmouth is traditionally viewed as a conservative campus, it has been nearly a decade since the campus has voted Republican.
In 1992 and 1996, approximately 60 percent of Dartmouth students supported President Bill Clinton -- higher than the actual national election results.
However, in 1988, Dartmouth lead the Ivy League with the most votes for former President George Bush.
President of the College Republicans Kathleen Reeder '01 was surprised, but not disappointed by the results of the poll.
"I don't think it's a reflection of the nation in general," she said. "I'm just happy with the national figures."
Reeder mentioned that political experts have said that Bush appears more genuine to students and has developed a connection with them, especially in terms of his policy on social security privatization.
"I don't know why Dartmouth is an anomaly there," she added.
"Even though I would have much more wanted to see Bradley [win], I would take Gore over Bush any day," said Paul Bozzello '04, who comes from a liberal New York family.
He said Gore's environmental policies, position on hate crime legislation and support of progress in the area of higher education appealed to him.
For Kate Collins '01, it was opposition to Bush that prompted her to support Gore.
"I don't like most of [Bush's] policies, especially in education, capital punishment and health care."
New Hampshire for Gore/Lieberman Coordinator Brian Stults '01 said that Gore and Nader appeal to young people because they have made a particular effort to get them involved.
"[The poll] is definitely a good showing. It shows people have taken an interest in the system," Stults said.
Referring to the recent surge of Bush's advertisement campaigns criticizing Gore, he added that the poll "shows that [students] have taken an interest in the issues and not in the campaigns."
Stults said he is optimistic about the Gore ticket in New Hampshire, which is one of eight identified swing states.
This year, other newspapers at Ivy League schools have not yet polled their student body. The Harvard Crimson will conduct a poll on Thursday, while others are not planning to do so.
Representatives of the Harvard Crimson and the Yale Daily News expect the majority of their campus population to vote for Gore.