Bush falls from grace on campus over Iraq war

April 30, 2004


The continuing war in Iraq has cost President George W. Bush his popularity among US students, according to a Harvard University survey.

The Republican president's support among university students has fallen to 38 per cent. Some 48 per cent plan to vote for his Democratic opponent, senator John F. Kerry.

Six months ago, students surveyed by Harvard were more supportive of President Bush than the general public were. Since then, his job approval rating among students has plummeted from 61 per cent to 47 per cent.

Researchers say the president is also vulnerable on the issues of the economy and same-sex marriage, which he opposes but 57 per cent of students support.

Dan Glickman, director of Harvard's Institute of Politics, said: "Concern over the war in Iraq and weakness in the job market have caught up with President Bush.

"Students now share the general public's more mixed view of the president, and Senator Kerry is benefiting from that shift."

But Mr Glickman said that students were "independent voters who are open to persuasion", and that the situation could change by the election in November. Thirty-seven per cent said they did not know enough about Senator Kerry to form an opinion of him.

Democrats and Republicans tried to spin the survey to their advantage, an indication of how highly they value the votes of the more than 5 million US university students. Two-thirds have said they would definitely vote in the election.

Ashley Bell, chairman of the College Democrats of America, said that, tentatively or not, "they're coming to the Democratic side".

But Eric Hopler, chairman of the College Republican National Committee, said that even 38 per cent approval for President Bush was "good news".

"This is a constituency that usually votes for Democrats."

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