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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 4, 2004

UI Student Exit Poll Examines Bush Vote, Rainforest, Drinking

President George W. Bush won backing in Johnson County among voters who feel that standing up for one's beliefs is the most important quality of a presidential candidate, while supporters of Democratic Sen. John Kerry's bid for the Oval Office considered "caring about people" the most desirable trait in a candidate.

Additionally, and perhaps not surprisingly, while local voters overall oppose the war in Iraq, Bush enjoys significant support for the war among Republican voters in the area.

These were just some of the findings -- released Wednesday afternoon -- of an exit poll conducted Tuesday in Johnson County by 48 students of two undergraduate campaign courses taught by David Redlawsk, assistant professor in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Department of Political Science.

Questions were also asked about the war in Iraq, the proposed indoor rainforest in Coralville, drinking laws in Iowa City and a proposal to have Iowa City run an electrical power utility in place of MidAmerican. Voters were also asked about their views on political corruption as part of a separate research project in which Redlawsk is involved, but that data will be released at a later date.

Students of Redlawsk's Political Campaigning course and honors seminar on campaigning conducted the polls at 16 Johnson County precincts located in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty and Penn Township just north of Interstate 80. This is the third year Redlawsk's students have conducted exit polls. Polls were previously conducted, using many of the same questions, in 2000 and 2002.

The students conducted 1,050 interviews throughout the day on Tuesday. The poll did not include early voters, who made up about 45 percent of all voters in Johnson County.

Redlawsk said that in addition to conducting the poll, his students are required to work on a political campaign of their choosing -- an experience that convinced some they never want to run for office themselves, while others appreciated the inside look at American politics.

" I thought the exit poll would be a good teaching tool as well as a good research tool for my classes," Redlawsk said. "My students really seem to enjoy the experience."

In addition to the presidential race, Redlawsk's students polled voters on the race between Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, who represents Iowa's 2nd U.S. House District, and Democratic challenger Dave Franker. Demonstrating the long-time incumbent's crossover appeal, Leach captured 22 percent of Democrats' votes while Franker netted just 2 percent of votes from Republicans. Leach also won the Independent vote by a wide margin (56 percent to Franker's 35 percent).

On another local issue examined by the poll, support for the proposal to build a large, indoor rainforest in Coralville was mixed among voters. Across all cities the project is opposed by 42 percent of the respondents and supported by 38 percent. More notable, says Redlawsk, is the fact that 20 percent of the respondents didn't have an opinion on the issue. Generally, Coralville residents are more supportive of the project than other areas polled, with 50 percent in favor of the rainforest and 33 percent opposed. But even in Coralville, 18 percent of the respondents didn't have a position on the project.

Asked to identify the most important local problems, voters ranked, in descending order of importance, jobs/economy (28 percent), education (22 percent), taxes (9 percent), growth/sprawl (9 percent), parking (9 percent), health care (9 percent) and air/water (3 percent). Redlawsk notes that the breakdown is almost identical to data gathered in 2002.

On the issue of drinking, bars and students, 41 percent of respondents said they support maintaining a 21 drinking age and not allowing anyone under that age into bars, while the remaining respondents (59 percent combined) support allowing people under 21 into bars (although 31 percent of the latter group still felt they shouldn't be allowed to drink alcohol).

A small plurality of voters think Iowa City puts too much emphasis on enforcing drinking laws (43 percent), and 36 percent belief there's just the right amount of enforcement. But one in five (21 percent) respondents think there is not enough focus on enforcing these laws.

Broken down by gender, polling data showed that more women than men support the 21 drinking age and limited bar access. Men, however, were equally split, with 65 percent favoring under-21 access to bars, compared with 54 percent of women who favor such a move. Additionally, only 19 percent of non-college women support a drinking age of 18, compared with 30 percent support among non-college men. And twice as many college women (26 percent) support both a 21 drinking age and 21 access to bars as do college men (13 percent).

Other findings of the exit poll:

--Iowa City voters were asked how they will vote next year on a proposal to have the city run the electrical power utility instead of remaining with Mid-American Energy. A large percentage of respondents (43 percent) said they don't have a position on the issue. But among those who do have an opinion there is more support (36 percent) than opposition (21 percent). The poll also found that self-described liberals are far more likely to support public power while about 43 percent of all ideological groups are undecided. And 26 percent of voters think utility rates are the more important determinant of their vote on Public Power while 67 percent said rates and reliability are equally important.

--Sixty-seven percent of voters said they oppose the war in Iraq as unjustified. But 86 percent of those who voted for Bush thought the war was justified, while only 9 percent of Kerry voters thought so. And the poll found that knowing someone who has served in Iraq didn't affect opinions much.

--Among Bush supporters 61 percent believed standing up for one's beliefs is the most important quality in a candidate, while only 38 percent of Kerry supporters believed this to be the most important quality. Kerry supporters, however, prized other qualities far more than Bush supporters did: caring about people (93 percent for Kerry, 7 percent for Bush), being fair and just (84 percent Kerry, 13 percent Bush), experience (75 percent Kerry, 25 percent Bush), trust (69 percent Kerry, 31 percent Bush) and leadership (58 percent Kerry, 42 percent Bush).

--Twenty-two percent of all voters polled were first-time voters. Among first-time voters, 65 percent were college students, while college students made up 27 percent of all repeat voters.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,