While Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each carried Virginia in their respective presidential primary elections Tuesday, voting results among college students differed greatly.
A computer analysis of election results from polling locations on or near university campuses in Virginia showed that college students strongly favored Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination and Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination.
The analysis aggregated the vote tallies for eight polling precincts that, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, contain large numbers of college students. VPAP, which makes campaign finance and other information available to the public, identified precincts associated with the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, James Madison University and Liberty University.
In Super Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Sanders received more than 74 percent of the votes cast in those college-associated precincts. Clinton won about 25 percent.
In contrast among voters statewide, Clinton beat Sanders 64 to 35 percent. In the Republican primary, at polling precincts on or near college campuses, Rubio took just over 50 percent of the vote, followed by Ted Cruz with 20 percent, Trump with almost 11.5 percent and John Kasich with about 8 percent.
That order differed significantly from the statewide results. Overall, 35 percent of Virginians who voted in the GOP primary favored Trump; 32 percent, Rubio; almost 17 percent, Cruz; and 9 percent, Kasich.
VPAP identified one precinct as closely affiliated with VCU. Capital News Service expanded the analysis by examining four precincts that include VCU student housing.
At those four locations, in the Democratic primary, 76 percent of the voters cast ballots for Sanders and 24 percent for Clinton. In the Republican primary, 46 percent of the voters favored Rubio; 22 percent, Trump; 17 percent, Kasich; and 8 percent, Cruz.
One student supporter of Sanders said the Vermont senator’s message resonates with young people.
“Students vote for Sanders because they see a vision for the future with him… More social welfare and student debt relief,” George Knight, a VCU student advocate who worked the phones leading up to the election, said. “With Clinton, there’s no overarching vision of what America could be. It’s just a continuation of the status quo.”
One Rubio supporter also expressed hope about the future while exiting the polls in Richmond on Tuesday.
“I voted for Marco Rubio because he’s a very optimistic candidate. He’s very articulate about a lot of values that I believe in,” said Chelsea, a VCU student chose not to share her last name. “And so I really wanted to get my voice out there for a positive candidate who has a real vision for America’s future.”
Not every student that participated in Tuesday’s primary voted for the candidate that they thought represented their best opportunity for a bright future.
“I voted for Marco Rubio, not necessarily because I wanted him, but I just wanted someone beyond Donald Trump,” a VCU student who chose to remain anonymous said at her polling place at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. “I don’t really care between Hillary or Bernie Sanders. So I didn’t vote for either of them because I’d be fine with either one of them.”
Staff Writer, Matt Chaney
Matt is a part-time journalism student with an undergraduate degree in English from William and Mary. He is a reporter for the Capital News Service wire and a contributor for RVAmag and GayRVA. He currently works as an assistant at Libbie Mill Library in Henrico County. His pastimes include rock climbing and hiking, and in 2014 he completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. // Facebook | LinkedIn
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