Survey aims to help voters

The Student Public Affairs Coalition surveyed Minn., candidates and posted the results online.

Chad Hamblin

University student Evan Jackson said he doesn’t know who is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives, or what they stand for. He’s also only heard of one congressional candidate, he said.

“(Kennedy is) pretty much the only guy that’s been on TV that I’ve seen,” Jackson said. “Personally, I’m spending most of my time focusing on the national election.”

But next to the names of President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry on the Nov. 2 election ballot will be several candidates for the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

To help students such as Jackson recognize those names on the ballot, the Student Public Affairs Coalition, a joint effort of the Minnesota Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, sent out surveys over the summer to Minnesota House and congressional candidates. The candidates’ responses are now available on the coalition’s Web site.

The surveys asked candidates what the top three issues facing students are, how they would address two of those issues and whether state funding for the University should increase, decrease or stay the same.

The main mission of the coalition is to encourage students to get out and vote, said co-chairwoman Amy Jo Pierce, who is also MSA vice president. However, the coalition first wants students to be educated, said co-chairman Dan Miller, GAPSA vice president for public affairs, who is not related to the Minnesota Daily reporter.

“Otherwise we’re only doing half the job,” he said.

Miller said the surveys the coalition sent out are a good way for students to learn who cares about their issues.

“(Students) need to know who’s been supporting them and who’s against them, and the only way to do that is to have it down on paper,” Miller said.

Out of 104 responses, 97 Minnesota House candidates listed the cost of education as one of the top three issues facing students. Some listed it three times. All U.S. House of Representatives candidates listed issues concerning affordable higher education as one of the top three issues.

Rep. Lynn Osterman, R – New Hope, was one incumbent candidate who responded to the survey.

“It’s the only way to look into the mind of the candidate,” she said. “I really appreciate it when groups go and try to do that.”

The coalition got responses from approximately 35 percent of Minnesota House candidates and approximately 40 percent of the U.S. House candidates.

Miller and Pierce said they were surprised to get that many responses. Most groups only get a 30 percent response rate, Miller said.

Although Jackson said he doesn’t think he will spend much time looking at the surveys, he said they are a good resource.

“I honestly don’t know how else you would get the information, and most kids aren’t going to go to their office or write a letter.”