---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2002 16:07:37 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Poll Says College Freshmen Lean Left
January 28, 2002
Poll Says College Freshmen Lean Left
Attitudes: UCLA survey finds highest percentage
of politically liberal students since early '70s.
By REBECCA TROUNSON
TIMES EDUCATION WRITER
More college freshmen today describe themselves as politically liberal
than at any time since the Vietnam War, a nationwide survey by UCLA
researchers has found.
A resurgence of liberalism among U.S. freshmen also is reflected in their
shifting attitudes on a range of hot-button political and social issues,
according to survey results released today.
"It's a real change, a broad-based trend toward greater liberalism on
almost every issue we look at," said Alexander W. Astin, a UCLA education
professor who started the survey, the nation's largest, in 1966. The
researchers measured "liberalism" by asking students to describe their
political views and to take positions on certain benchmark issues.
For instance, a record proportion--57.9%--believe that gay couples should
have the legal right to marry. The highest portion in two
decades--32.2%--say the death penalty should be abolished. And more than
a third--the highest rate since 1980--say marijuana should be legalized,
although 75% also say employers should be allowed to require drug testing
of workers and applicants.
Still, about half of the class of 2005, in line with their recent
predecessors, view themselves as "middle of the road" politically. And
20.7% consider themselves conservative or "far right," while 29.9%--the
highest figure since 1975--say they are liberal or "far left."
The latter figure has risen steadily since 1996, said Linda Sax, an
education professor and director of the 36th annual survey. But it pales
compared with the peak year in 1971, at the height of the anti-Vietnam
War fervor, when 40.9% of those polled called themselves liberal.
The American Freshman Survey, based this year on responses from 281,064
students at 421 four-year colleges and universities, is the nation's
oldest and most comprehensive assessment of student attitudes. It is a
joint project of UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute and the
American Council on Education, based in Washington.
Freshmen usually fill out questionnaires during orientation or the first
week of classes, so their answers often reflect more on their high school
experiences than on those in college.
Almost all of this year's forms were completed before Sept. 11, so any
changes in student attitudes as a result of the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon would be reflected in next year's
results, survey directors said.
Among the more striking findings of this year's poll was a reversal in a
long slide toward political apathy on college campuses, probably
attributable to the dramatic 2000 presidential contest, Sax said.
A growing, though still small, percentage of students now say they
frequently discuss politics and that it is important to them to keep up
to date with political affairs. And a record 47.5%--three times greater
than when the question was first asked in 1966--said they participated in
organized demonstrations in the previous year.
Contrary to common perception, Astin said, there are more demonstrations
now--albeit smaller protests--than during the era best known for student
"They feel freer [to protest], and there's an environment that's
acceptable," he said.
UCLA freshman Ricardo Gutierrez, who took part in a recent campus rally
to support lower tuition for illegal immigrants, explained that students
"need to be involved if we want laws passed that we agree with."
"It's important to show people what we think," said Gutierrez, 18, who is
from Lamont, near Bakersfield. He said he tries to keep up with political
Not all agreed. UCLA freshman Nate Skrzypczak said he paid close
attention during the presidential race, then quickly returned to what he
called his "usual disinterested self."
"I don't see that [politics] really directly affects anyone," said the
18-year-old from San Diego. "It just doesn't have that big an impact on
Whether or not they are politically involved, many college freshmen are
anything but disengaged when it comes to community service. This year's
class reported record levels of volunteerism, with 82.6% saying they had
done some volunteer work in the last year.
Although many high schools require community service for graduation, and
it can boost the prospects for a college applicant, Astin said the desire
to help appears to go well beyond that.
Despite continuing evidence that today's students are relatively
materialistic--73.6% said they want to be very well off financially--they
also seem to want to find an outlet for what Astin called their "higher
"They're much more inclined to express their concerns about other
people," he said, in contrast to previous generations of students.
Volunteering "helps get your mind off yourself," said Christie Tedmon, a
UCLA freshman and a member of its top-ranked gymnastics team. During high
school in Sacramento, Tedmon joined many of her classmates in helping
repair the homes of elderly people and also volunteered at a local
"We owe it to the community to help out a little," she said.
Patrick Hamo, 18, spent many hours in high school tutoring disadvantaged
children in a Glendale program started by his older brother. "It really
opens your eyes," the UCLA freshman said. "It makes you realize how much
you can do."
Other trends emerged in this year's survey:
* Of this year's freshmen, 70% said they had socialized with someone of
another racial or ethnic group in the last year--the highest rate since
the survey began.
* Fewer students than before--19.5%--said they believed racial
discrimination was "no longer a major problem" in the United States, and
fewer thought affirmative action in college admissions should be
* A record 15.8% of freshmen said they have no religious preference, up
slightly from last year and more than double the figure in 1966.
* More students than ever appear to be academically disengaged. A record
41.1% said they were frequently bored in class, and only 34.9% reported
spending at least six hours a week hitting the books as high school
seniors. In 1987, when the question was first asked, 47% said they
studied at least six hours each week.
* This year's students continue to show signs of stress, worrying about
completing all the tasks confronting them. A gender gap persists, with
more than twice as many young women--36.6%--as young
men--17.4%--reporting feeling "frequently overwhelmed by all I have to
"These students never really get a chance to calm down," Sax said,
especially in the final, frenzied years of high school. "They're
multi-tasking on everything at once, trying to build these strong resumes
before they even get into college."
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