By By Brian Bohl
Colleges are beginning to take a closer look at students' political attitudes in an effort to learn how they match up with the rest of the country. At the University a diversity of opinion exists; however, even detractors of the current administration appear optimistic about politics in general.
Two leading polls showed President George Bush's approval ratings to be at an all-time low.
The Quinnipiac University poll, which surveyed 1,230 registered voters, found 40 percent approved of Bush's performance, with a ±2.8 margin of error.
Similarly, a Time magazine poll, which surveyed 1,004 adults, found 41 percent approved, with a ±3 margin of error.
"This is a lower approval rating than that of President Clinton post-impeachment and is near the levels of President Johnson during the Vietnam War," according to Harvard University's Institute of Politics' (IOP) Executive Summary, released last month.
College students, a more specific demographic, appear to have similar assessments.
Harvard University's Institute of Politics released the results of a survey last month of 1,204 students, chosen at random from a national database, on both Bush's job performance and their feelings toward politics in general.
The college undergraduates were polled over the phone from Oct. 10 to 18. The margin of error for the overall survey was ±2 percent with a 95 percent confidence level, which is higher for the subgroups, according to the executive report.
Only 11 percent of students surveyed said they trusted the president to "do the right thing all of the time."
More than 70 percent said they believed elected officials are motivated by selfish reasons, a view fed by Congressional scandals like the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay and bribery charges against California Congressman Randy Cunningham.
Lindsay Gardner, a sophomore English major, is one of those who fits in that 70 percent.
"I definitely think that most politicians are motivated by selfish reasons, and they only pass certain bills based on the fact that they want to be reelected, rather than for the good of the people," she said.
Mike Hearne, a junior marketing major at the University, said he was unhappy with the reaction to Hurricane Katrina and Bush's handling of the war in Iraq.
He added that the press could have been more critical of the administration.
"The media coverage was too passive," Hearne said. "Apparently it was not a big deal that the pretenses with which we went to war turned out to be false."
Gardner agreed with Hearne.
"Bush's administration does a good job of purposefully staying out of the press, so I would say that the press has been too passive in their coverage," she said.
Despite recent impropriety by public officials, however, some degree of optimism still remains.
"Ideologically, I don't think all politicians are motivated by selfish reasons," Hearne said. "There are a lot of good politicians out there, not only at the local and state level, but some at the national level."
Erik Pekkala, sophomore video/television major, expressed a similar opinion, saying that politicians are usually trustworthy and that recent illegal activity illustrates an aberration, rather than the norm, in Washington.
"There are innumerable examples of graft, corruption and selfishness among politicians throughout history and today is no exception," he said. "However, I believe the people we elect are generally good, honest and have our best interests at heart."
Pekkala went on to note some strengths of the current administration.
"The job performance of George W. Bush has been good to a certain extent," he said. "Over the course of his two terms, I feel that he has done a more than satisfactory job of improving homeland security in this day and age of terrorism."