DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite being held on Drake University’s campus, most caucus-goers in attendance at precincts 45 and 46 in Polk county were not students.

About 215 people came out to caucus at Olmsted Hall on Drake’s campus here yesterday evening. While many students helped staff the event, few came to vote, leaving a majority of the caucus populated by elderly and middle-aged adults.

In Polk county, where Drake is located, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won with 28.4 percent of the vote, followed by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) with 22.6 percent of the vote. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who finished second state-wide after a late surge in the campaign, finished third in Polk County with 21.6 percent of the vote.

Aside low student turnout at Drake, there also was a general lack of college student support at many campaign events in state-wide preceding the caucus. Very few students attended a campaign event for Romney in Clive, Iowa Monday night and Rock the Caucus — an event held in West Des Moines to garner youth support yesterday morning — was restricted solely to high school students.

Even a downtown Des Moines whistle-stop for Paul, the libertarian-leaning candidate who particularly boasts his campaign’s youth support, lacked in student attendance.

In an interview before the caucus, Drake sophomore Sam Pritchard, caucus chair for the two precincts at Drake, said he expected about 200 people in total at the event, but was skeptical regarding student turnout.

Pritchard said student turnout was because many students are still on Winter Break.

“That was really damaging to the kind of influence that we were able to give students at Drake,” Pritchard said.

John Michael Hall, a 2009 graduate of Drake who caucused at Olmstead, said he understands why college students may not vote in droves, noting he feels differently about political issues as a graduate than he did while still in school.

“When you’re in college … you don’t seem as affected by a lot of the policy and … legislation that’s being passed,” Hall said. “… I think more than anything it’s just maturing and getting to stage in your life where these things are more important.”

Hall attributed his increased interest in policy to beginning to experience political issues firsthand in the real world.

“I think they were just as important then, I just wasn’t as aware,” he said.

Pritchard said Drake University hosted its first straw poll this election season, and according to the University’s research, it was the largest college straw poll in the country during the current election cycle, with over 1,200 students participating.

According to poll results, Pritchard said the university’s student body is “mirrored” in terms of party affiliation, with 40 percent identifying as “some type of Democrat,” 41 percent identifying as “some type of Republican,” and 16 percent identifying “in the middle.”

“It surprised me how perfectly balanced it is,” Pritchard said.

Pritchard argued that students stand to benefit more from caucuses than ballot-style primary elections.

“(In) a primary you’re acting as an individual, in a caucus you’re acting as something bigger than that,” Pritchard said.

Drake sophomore Lucas Oshman, a non-voting observer at the caucus, said he thinks the caucus structure is particularly conducive to college students.

“If you’re looking at the way a university works, a caucus would be more in line with what a Uuniversity would want to do rather than a private primary because it allows people to speak their minds, which is what a lot of people do at a university,” Oshman said.

Drake senior Zach Seeman said he finds the caucus atmosphere refreshingly social, allowing caucus-goers to mingle and discuss their political beliefs.

“The nice thing about caucuses is that you get to function as more of a group, and its nice because you get to meet fellow supporters,” Seeman said, adding that he spent much of the night debating with a fellow Drake student who came to the caucus in support of Santorum.

Seeman donned a bright red Ron Paul shirt throughout the caucus, and even helped staffers pass out pencils. He said he was happy that Paul supporters at Drake coordinated over e-mail to garner support for the caucus, especially since Paul won in student-heavy precinct 45.

Though student turnout at Drake was not incredibly high, he said young people are important to the Paul campaign throughout Iowa.

“Elsewhere in the state, definitely the youth vote for Ron Paul has an effect in the caucus,” Seeman said.

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