As the 2020 election approaches, college students are turning their attention to the broad array of candidates and policy issues that will define the presidential race. WBRU is committed to being a voice for Gen-Z and college-age students, and as part of that effort, we’ve conducted a survey of students from universities across the United States to better understand their attitudes about the election and the issues at stake. The results of our May 28th-May 29th poll, administered in collaboration with student-run polling company College Reaction, revealed a number of surprising insights.

Climate change is the most important issue for college students in the upcoming presidential election. Out of the 500 students surveyed, 30.9% selected climate change as the issue that is most important to them in the upcoming presidential election, followed by the economy (16.4%) and healthcare (12%).

When asked whether it is more important that a candidate can beat Donald Trump or that they agree with the candidate on policy issues, the majority of students (72%) said that it is more important that their candidate aligns with them on policy issues.

Of those who say climate change is the most important issue to them, 21.5% say Joe Biden best reflects their position on climate change. Biden is not the most progressive candidate in climate change policy, but students seem to trust his pragmatic approach to address global warming. Following behind Biden is Sanders at 16.5%, Buttigieg at 12.7%, and O’Rourke and Warren at 11.4%. Jay Inslee, who has made climate change the central focus of his campaign, garnered only 1.9% of the students’ support.

When asked which candidate best reflects their position on the issue that they care most about, Joe Biden was the top candidate overall, with 18.09% of students selecting him as the candidate that reflects their top policy preference. Biden is followed by Bernie Sanders at 16.15% and Donald Trump at 14.59%. Notably, for all the talk of democrats and young people yearning for diversity in government, the top three candidates are white men over the age of 70.

63.1% of college students say they’re more likely to vote in 2020 after the recent passage of restrictive abortion laws in Georgia and Alabama. And 47% say that they are “much more likely” to vote. It seems that what was an undeniably devastating blow to the democratic agenda may turn into a boon for democrats at the polls.

Student opinion about impeachment was predictably split along party lines. Overall, 52% of students support beginning impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, while 48% are opposed. When we look into respondent’s party identification, 70.5% of college students who identify as Democrats support impeachment, while 84.4% of Republican students are against impeachment.

Intrigued by the findings above? Listen in to a conversation between WBRU’s Carolyn Paletta and our polling partners at College Reaction, Cyrus Beschloss and Matin Miramezzani, as they take a closer look at the results.

For a full breakdown of the results, download the PDF of our WBRU/College Reaction poll.

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