Panetta Institute Poll: College Students Continue Support of Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, and a Strong Government

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The Panetta Institute of Public Policy, located at California State University – Monterey Bay, has sponsored an annual survey of U.S. college students since 2001.

This year’s survey results revealed that students continue to be preoccupied with economic worries, though they bear much more positive attitudes this year than they have in the past. The executive summary is below:

  • College students continue to express confidence in Barack Obama, and rate his performance much more highly than the country as a whole: 66% approve of his job performance, compared with 48% of the public in a contemporaneous survey. However, Obama’s approval rating has declined 9 points since his 2009 “honeymoon” period.
  • While two-thirds (66%) believe that Barack Obama understands college students’ needs, just 21% say the same of Sarah Palin.
  • College students continue to lean toward the Democrats as they consider the 2010 off-year elections, but there are clear warning signs for Democrats in this poll. Students are paying far less attention to this election than they were the historic 2008 presidential race (44% now, 82% in 2008) raising questions about college students’ likely turnout in November. Moreover, Democrats’ 12-point margin in the generic congressional ballot is much smaller than the 26-point lead they enjoyed at the same point in the 2006 cycle, and only slightly better than in 2002 (seven points) when Republicans elected congressional majorities.
  • Students continue to view the economy as weak (83% say it is not so good or poor), and although they are not yet in the workforce, fully 40% say they have been personally affected a great deal or quite a bit by the economic downturn.
  • Students’ confidence in their ability to find an acceptable job after graduation, which declined in 2009, remains low: 36% of college students, including 45% of seniors, are just somewhat or not confident that they will find an acceptable job. The 64% expressing confidence is the lowest level the survey has ever recorded.
  • Interest in a government career continues to rise among college students, with 42% now very or fairly interested!the highest mark we have ever recorded. While the recession may have contributed to this rise, there has been a fairly steady increase in this measure over the past nine years.
  • The survey reveals a startling gender gap when it comes to interest in an eventual run for office, with men being twice as interested in running for federal office than women (men 36%, women 18%), and also more interested in pursuing local or state office (men 43%, women 28%).
  • College students’ support for same-sex marriage continues to grow, now reaching 65%, compared with just 52% in 2004.
  • Students support a much more active government than the public as a whole, and they rate government’s performance much more highly. By 51% to 30%, they say government should do more to solve problems, while among the public overall, 43% say government should do more and 48% believe the government is doing too many things.

Students are ostensibly still liberal in their political views according to this survey, but their enthusiasm for participating in the 2010 midterms and supporting the Democratic Party is waning, along with their approval of President Obama. Not waning at all is their concern regarding their ability to find jobs after college.

This poll provides more evidence that the issue of job creation should be paramount for Democrats if they wish to attract college students (and young people) by this November.

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Change.org’s Internet Activism Gets Tim Hortons to Pull Sponsorship of Anti-GLBT Event

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An Anti-GLBT group, National Organization for Marriage, is holding a rally today in Rhode Island in support of traditional marriage. The rally is going to serve as a local platform for Maggie Gallagher, the national leader of the organization, to tell fellow bigots in Rhode Island why straight men and women should enjoy more rights than gay Americans.

The encouraging thing about this is what happened after Change.org got a hold of some information linking the Canadian coffee shop Tim Hortons to sponsorship of the event.

Last Sunday, Change.org published the story, and the feedback funneled to Tim Hortons was amazing, prompting the company to take action:

Folks, this is huge. In the past 17 hours, we’ve had more than 1,600 folks send letters to Tim Hortons, asking why a franchise in Rhode Island was sponsoring an anti-LGBT festival hosted by the National Organization for Marriage. Well, guess what? Tim Hortons has answered our emails, loud and clear. Here’s the message that just came in from their company headquarters.

Tim Hortons responds to inquiries about Rhode Island event sponsorship

Recently, Tim Hortons was approached in Rhode Island to provide free coffee and products for a local event, as we do thousands of times a year across Canada and the United States.

For 45 years, Tim Hortons and its store owners have practiced a philosophy of giving back to the communities in which we operate. As a company, our primary focus is on helping children and supporting fundraising events for non-profit organizations and registered charities.

For this reason, Tim Hortons has not sponsored those representing religious groups, political affiliates or lobby groups.

It has come to our attention that the Rhode Island event organizer and purpose of the event fall outside of our sponsorship guidelines. As such, Tim Hortons can not provide support at the event.

Tim Hortons and its store owners have always welcomed all families and communities to its restaurants and will continue to do so. We apologize for any misunderstanding or inconvenience this may have caused.

Yet another example of the value and possibilities of internet-based activism. Congrats to Change.org and to those who wrote the company. Consider thanking Tim Hortons for standing up for equal rights by contacting them here.

Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Understand Warren Debacle; Surprise, Surprise

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I haven’t written anything to this point regarding Obama’s tapping of Rev. Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration ceremony mainly because I think it’s a distraction from other important issues.  However, a Wall Street Journal editorial is going to make me end my silence, because it highlights the right’s misunderstanding of the issue.

An excerpt from the editorial:

The most thoughtful and interesting debate of the two-year-long presidential campaign occurred last August at Saddleback Church between John McCain and Barack Obama, moderated by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren. So it is notable that President-elect Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration next month has brought forth hyperpartisan invective from the Democratic left. It has spent the past week conveying to the world its disappointment and disgust with the choice of Pastor Warren because he opposes gay marriage and abortion.

[…]

The person in this drama for whom the leftwing Democratic habit of moralized intolerance could be a problem is Barack Obama. The left loaded up heavily in its support of candidate Obama, first against the Clinton machine — always thought to be too willing to compromise with the center — and then in the general campaign. These elements in the Democratic Party know what they want Barack Obama to deliver on judges, the environment, global warming and lifestyle rights litigation.

Mr. Obama’s choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural’s invocation suggests that he is intent on using the momentum of his remarkable victory to build a governing coalition for the long haul. The silver lining for Republicans may be that the left won’t let him do that.

We can see that the WSJ Editorial Board believes the story to be in the reaction of the left, expressing a growing sense of surprise that the left would be so obstructive because Warren simply had the “wrong” views on gay marriage and abortion.

Let’s toss abortion to the side for a minute.  From what I’ve read, the reason why Warren is so anathema to the left is his statement comparing the gay community to incest and polygamy, yet he’s also said that he’s not homophobic and that he supports full equal rights for everyone.  The comparison is homophobic in and of itself, and his view that gay marriage is wrong and his support of Prop 8 in California eviscerates his statement in support of equal rights.

Many people hear about Rick Warren’s work on behalf of HIV prevention and assume that he’s a tolerant guy.  But HIV isn’t a “gay” disease.  It affects many other cross-sections of society.  And the values Warren espouses when he does this work surely can’t be that different from those that would allow gay people to commit to each other.

I am one person who has learned from all of this.  I did think Warren was a sign of hope, as I was fooled by his focus on poverty and HIV.  But I see there’s still work to be done.

I think Obama messed up by choosing Warren.  I also think the Wall Street Journal doesn’t understand that the left is reacting because Warren’s not only “wrong” on the issue, but homophobic.  The left does not want to see this attached to an historic moment like Obama’s inauguration.