Phoenix Poll Finds a Divided Student Body

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, polling by The Phoenix found Swarthmore students split on a range of issues both on and off campus. In the poll, 86 students at Crumb Cafe responded to a series of questions about the college administration, the upcoming presidential election, and international affairs. Below are the highlights from the poll, within a confidence interval of +/- 10%.

Topline results for on-campus issues indicate a marked displeasure among students with the administration. A majority of students surveyed say they do not trust the current administration to make decisions that are in the best interest of Swarthmore College and its students. While 33% remained neutral about President Val Smith’s job performance, over 55% expressed some level of disapproval. And following housing selection, nearly two-thirds of students believe Housing Office either doesn’t consider student feedback at all or only does so to a minimal extent when making decisions about housing policies and procedures. 

Students were split on Public Safety’s performance and potential biases. Most students had a negative response when asked about the Public Safety Office’s capability to promptly respond to emergencies. On Tuesday night, several student organizations called for the firing of PubSafe officer Brandon Duke, who is accused of racial profiling and other misconduct. The Phoenix found no statistically significant difference between student responses to the question “Do you believe that the Public Safety Office demonstrates racial bias or discrimination in its practices?” recorded before and after the news broke. In total, 66% of respondents believed that Pub Safe at least “moderately” demonstrated racial bias or discrimination in its practices.

Moving off campus, students expressed broad dissatisfaction with both dominant national parties in questions about the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. 65% of students indicated that they were certain to vote. While 62% of respondents self-identified with the Democratic Party, only 5% of respondents said that the Democratic Party “strongly” reflected their values. 20% of respondents identified as independents. Of respondents who were certain to vote, 81% planned to vote for Joe Biden, while 5% indicated they would vote for Cornel West and 10% indicated they would vote for someone else. Only 27% of Biden voters expressed enthusiasm for their choice. In addition, only 32% of respondents said they approve of how Biden is handling his job as President, while none expressed strong approval. 56% of those disapproving of Biden’s job performance still intend to vote for him.

To test how strong negative voting — the practice of voting against a candidate, rather than for one — is here on campus, The Phoenix asked respondents to vote again with Donald Trump removed from the ballot. Only 51% indicated they would vote for Biden in such a scenario, while 18% said they would vote for Cornel West and 16% indicated they would vote for someone else. This indicates that about 37% of Biden voters may be third-party curious but are held in line by their negative attitudes towards Trump.

The Phoenix also asked questions about the international conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. 77% disapproved of Israel’s actions since Oct. 7 in some capacity and 72% approved of last semester’s campus sit-in. Only 45% of students agreed that the United States should send further military aid to Ukraine, while 21% of students opposed sending more aid. 

The Phoenix thanks all of the participants in the poll for their time. 

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