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Barack Obama dominates in poll of college students

May 27, 2008 |  5:40 am

If the students who heard Barack Obama's commencement speech this last weekend at Connecticut's Wesleyan University were typical of their cohorts nationwide, his listeners were an overwhelmingly friendly audience.

A recent poll of college students conducted for the Panetta Institute for Public Policy found, not surprisingly, that support for Obama far outstrips that for Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

Among those identifying themselves as Democratic primary voters, Obama was backed by 66%, Clinton 20%. And among all students surveyed -- 1,004 -- Obama led McCain, 59% to 27%, while Clinton had a much narrower advantage, 46% to 39%.

"I don't think we've seen a generational difference like this since the Vietnam era," said the institute's director, Leon Panetta, a former California congressman and onetime White House chief of staff for President Clinton. "Clearly, students are excited by the Obama candidacy. The question now is how many of these young people will remain motivated to get out and vote."

Most told the pollsters they would -- of the 79% who said they were registered to vote, 81% said they definitely would be casting a ballot. By comparison, in spring 2004 a comparable survey found 73% of students saying they were registered intended to vote in that year's general election.

Here's a really eye-popping difference between then and now, though. Four years ago, 22% of college students said they were paying a lot of attention to the evolving campaign between President Bush and Democrat John F. Kerry. The figure for this year: 82%.

The entire poll, which also gauged student attitudes about the U.S. economy (bleak) and Bush (none too good) can be perused here.

-- Don Frederick