Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean finished first among Democratic presidential hopefuls in a straw poll of students conducted by the College Democrats on Tuesday. Dean’s 28 percent put him 11 points in front of second-place Gen. Wesley Clark.

“It reflects Dean being the leading contender, both in key primary states and here on campus,” Mike Griffin (COL ’05), co-founder of Georgetown for Dean, said. Griffin pointed to Dean’s appearance on campus and the work that Georgetown for Dean has done on campus to explain Dean’s popularity.

The College Democrats conducted the vote at a table in Red Square from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the poll, 103 votes were cast overall.

Sixteen percent of respondents were undecided.

The other perceived-top-tier candidates were Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) and Sen. John Edwards (N.C.). Kerry finished third with 15 percent and Edwards finished fourth with 12 percent. No other candidate in the field of nine received more than 4 percent support.

Leaders of both Georgetown for Dean and Georgetown for Edwards sent e-mails early Tuesday morning encouraging their members to vote. Representatives of Hoyas for Clark and Hoyas for Kerry said they did not know about the poll ahead of time and did not contact their members. The College Democrats mentioned they would be holding a vote at their Traditions Day table in an e-mail to their members late Monday night.

Tim McCann (SFS ’04), director of communications for Hoyas for Kerry, said the size of the poll was too small to be an accurate measure of campus opinion. McCann said that he expects student support for Kerry to increase as elections draw nearer.

Washington, D.C. will hold the nation’s first presidential vote, a non-binding primary, on Jan. 13, 2004. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 19.

“This is a really good indication of how far this campaign has come and how far it has to go,” Arielle Holland (COL ’07), board member of Georgetown for Edwards, said. She predicted that a new straw poll would yield higher numbers for Edwards after he “scored points” Tuesday night in a candidate forum aimed at younger voters in Boston. The debate was sponsored by CNN and Rock the Vote.

David Sawyer (COL ’04), board member of Hoyas for Clark, said Clark’s popularity is growing in early primary states including New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as on Georgetown’s campus.

“I’m glad to hear he got 17 percent of the vote,” Sawyer said. “He’d be closer to Dean if this straw poll was more well publicized.”

David Benjamin (COL ’05), president of the College Republicans, said that the poll shows that the Democratic party is confused.

“Dean’s small lead shows how weak the field is,” Benjamin said.

A recent Harvard University poll showed that Democratic college students around the country favored Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) over Dean, 17 percent to 16 percent. Clark was third in the Harvard survey with 9 percent.

“Dean came here, he sounded good and he’s got an energy that excites people,” government professor Stephen Wayne said. “He appeals to college students who otherwise might not be involved.”

Dean spoke in Gaston Hall on Oct. 16. Kerry gave a foreign policy address there in February and Clark moderated a foreign-policy panel in April, months before announcing his candidacy.

Wayne said that Dean’s on-campus support could be important if it meant more students were persuading their peers to vote or more students were working for his campaign. In the November 2000 presidential election, slightly more than one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, the fewest among all age groups, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Student support is important,” Wayne said. “But it doesn’t mean Dean has sewn up the Democratic nomination.”

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