Nov 062006
Authors: Emily Polak

See our poll results

Students at CSU overwhelmingly support pot legalization, boosting minimum wage and the Democratic candidates for governor and the 4th Congressional District, according to a Collegian poll of 100 CSU students taken in the Lory Student Center Plaza last week.

Although not scientific, the poll, which surveyed a random sampling of students, gave a snapshot of where students stand on several issues on Tuesday’s ballot.

Referendum I, which would extend legal protections for same-sex couples, and Amendment 42, which would boost the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 an hour, got the most support.

Referendum I has the support of 76 percent of the potential voters surveyed.

“I believe in equality for everyone,” said Ryan Biegen, a junior math major. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

And Amendment 42 picked up a 71 percent support.

“They haven’t changed it (the minimum wage) since 1997, and that is ridiculous,” said Lauren Guy, a sophomore biomedical sciences major. “The cost of living in the past 10 years has gone up a lot.”

A poll commissioned by The Denver Post and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research differed significantly from the Collegian poll. The Post poll, which surveyed 625 registered voters, showed 47 percent support for Referendum I and 58 percent support for Amendment 42.

The biggest difference among measures included in the two polls was on Amendment 44, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people age 21 or older. The Post poll showed only 34 percent support, while the Collegian poll showed 63 percent, shedding light on the impact student turnout could have.

Mason Tvert, campaign manager for the pot-legalization group SAFER, said the difference illustrates the inherent shortcoming of traditional election polls.

“There are lots of methodological problems with polling,” Tvert said. “I don’t place a whole lot in polling.”

Statistics show 29 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 actually vote. Of those, very few own landline phones, which the Post poll relied on, he said.

And it’s something Tvert has faced before.

“The Denver polls were not ideal,” he said, referring to last November’s voter-approved Initiative 100, which legalized small amounts of pot in Denver. “No one expected us to win then.”

One reason for the difference is CSU students seem to be significantly more supportive of issues that benefit individual rights, said John Straayer, a CSU political science professor.

“As compared to the Colorado public at large, CSU students are more favorably disposed towards both pot and good pay,” he said.

Many student voters remain undecided in both the governor’s race and the race for the 4th Congressional District seat. Of the students surveyed, 24 percent and 36 percent said they were “not sure” who they would vote for in the governor’s race and 4th Congressional race, respectively.

“(It) probably reflects a lower level of connection to politics,” Staayer said of the undecided student population. “It could partially reflect out-of-staters who are not in tune with Colorado politics.”

The high rate of uncertainty among college students is usually attributed to their lack of political knowledge, said Bill Chaloupka, chair of the CSU political science department.

“The traditional wisdom is that young people have less influence because they don’t vote as much,” he said.

Of those who were decided, Ritter and Paccione led in student support with 48 percent of potential voters in favor of Ritter and 44 percent in support of Paccione.

“I think it is partly because he (Ritter) was on the supportive side of Referendum C, which was critical to higher education,” Straayer said.

Musgrave only attracted l2 percent support, which, Straayer says, is correlated with students’ support of measures like Amendment 44 and Referendum I,

“I suspect students are bothered by what they perceive as Musgrave’s narrow agenda and focus on moral issues,” he said. “Referendum I and Amendment 44 support mirrors what you see in the 12 percent for Musgrave.”

Other reasons for the discrepancy between the Collegian and Post polls lie in the methods employed to complete the polls, Chaloupka said.

“A poll of 100 respondents has a pretty wide margin of error, ” he said.

Chaloupka added that polling is not always a very accurate way to predict election results.

“Polls can be very accurate, but their accuracy is dependent on several factors,” he said. “What you are getting with a professional poll is better question design and sample size variety.”

The Collegian poll only surveyed students, who represent a small percentage of voters.

“CSU students seem to be more comfortable with equal rights,” Straayer said. “The whole thing shows a some what more tolerant live and let live attitude.”

Staff writer Teresa O’Brien contributed to this report.

Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at


How the poll was conducted

-100 students in the Lory Student Center Plaza were surveyed last Tuesday afternoon.

-Of those, 76 chose “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they intended to vote. These 76 are referred to in the story as potential voters.

-The poll was random and non-scientific. Experts warn the margin of error could be high. In addition, the poll is simply a snapshot of where a small sampling of CSU students stand on certain issues.

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