College students prefer Joe Biden to President Donald Trump by an overwhelming margin, but roughly half of them still have an unfavorable impression of the former vice president, according to a new poll.

The Knight Foundation’s nationwide survey of 4,000 full-time undergraduates found that 70% of them plan to vote for Biden, and 18% for Trump. More than four out of five had an unfavorable impression of the Republican president.

But the students were almost evenly split on Trump’s Democratic challenger, with 49% reporting a favorable impression of Biden and 51% unfavorable.

The poll was consistent with many other surveys finding that much of Biden’s support comes from voters more motivated by their disapproval of Trump than by their enthusiasm for Biden.

The top concern of the students surveyed was, by far, COVID-19, followed by race relations and climate change. The poll came as colleges and universities are struggling to reopen safely, with epidemiologists warning that students on campuses that have reopened are spreading the coronavirus at parties where many do not social distance or wear masks.

More than two-thirds of the students said they would like the U.S. Constitution to be amended to abolish the Electoral College and elect the president by popular vote.

Trump is the second president in the last two decades to lose the popular vote — in his case, by 2.9 million votes — yet win the presidency by carrying enough states to win the electoral college.

In 2000, Al Gore won 547,398 more votes than George W. Bush, but lost the presidency when the Supreme Court stopped a ballot recount in Florida, leaving Bush 537 votes ahead in a crucial swing state that gave him an Electoral College majority.

The Knight Foundation survey also found that 55% of students do not expect the 2020 presidential election to be administered well. Nearly three-quarters said they would have doubts about the fairness of the election if it takes weeks to count the ballots.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.


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