College freshmen are more politically polarized today than they have been in the last 51 years, new survey results show.
Just over two in five of the 137,456 first-year college students across the United States who responded last fall to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) annual freshman survey identified as non-partisan. On the other hand, 35.5 percent of students aligned themselves with liberal or far-left ideology, while 22.2 percent considered themselves conservative or far right. Millennial voting behavior in the 2016 election is consistent with this data, as 55 percent of the demographic cast its vote for Hillary Clinton, while 37 percent supported President Donald Trump. The findings also revealed a sharper ideological divide between male and female respondents than in previous surveys.
Students were not, of course, immune from the oftentimes acerbic rhetoric of the election, a fact researchers point to as a partial explanation for the shift from neutrality. Kevin Eagan, the study’s lead researcher and the managing director of HERI, said the erosion of the political middle has been occurring over the last few years, with the latest results in line with previous findings that show increasing ideological identification among college-going freshmen.