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Politics a snoozer to students

Most in poll doubt voting for president will change much

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SEASIDE, Calif. — Most college students doubt that voting in presidential elections will make major changes in American society, according to a nationwide survey.

Only 35 percent of the students surveyed said presidential voting will create "a lot of change," compared to 47 percent who thought so in March 2001, according to the poll conducted for the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute, a public-policy think tank at the California State University, Monterey Bay.

The survey also found that only 19 percent of American college students believe that politics is "very relevant" to their lives, and 43 percent believe that politics has little or no relevance.

"Somehow the message isn't getting through," said Leon Panetta, the institute's director and former chief of staff to President Clinton.

Despite pressing issues such as the economy and the war in Iraq, students often are turned off by politics, Panetta said.

"Obviously, candidates, educators and all the rest of us need to do a better job of promoting political and civic involvement if we hope to restore trust in our democracy," he said.

The survey, released by the institute Wednesday, was conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. The poll consisted of 800 telephone interviews from April 28 to May 2 with students at four-year institutions around the country. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Of those questioned, 42 percent said they supported likely Democratic nominee John Kerry in the upcoming presidential race, while 30 percent backed President Bush, 24 percent were undecided and 4 percent supported independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Other findings of the survey:Students rate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as more important in the nation's history than the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the 1929 stock market crash or the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Student support for the Bush administration's approach to the war on terrorism has dropped from 57 percent in April 2002 to 37 percent. But half of students still believed the United States was right in taking military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Three out of four students oppose reviving the military draft.

Students are evenly divided on the subject of same-sex marriage.