- College freshmen are more politically polarized than at any point in the last 50 years, with the majority placing themselves on the left or right of the political spectrum rather than the “middle of the road,” according to The Chronicle for Higher Education.
- A survey was conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, finding that about 41% of women considered themselves “liberal” or “far left” (the highest percentage ever recorded), compared with 29% of men.
- The survey also indicated that more students were concerned about how they would pay for the cost of college, and less than half of freshmen reported their mental health to be above average compared to peers, which was a first in the history of the survey.
With college presidents seeing themselves as separate from student life due to job responsibilities, it seems that the distance between an absent head of the college and a more politicized student body can lead to situations where those presidents must step down because they didn't respond adequately to students’ concerns in response to a crisis or controversy. If presidents are not witnessing the daily polarization on campus, they may be caught unaware when it manifests itself in impassioned political debate.
Though college campuses are often regarded as areas of heightened political debate, the increased polarization in higher ed institutions is mirroring a broader polarization taking place throughout the country. According to James Campbell, a political science professor, the country’s liberals and conservatives combined outnumbered moderates for the first time ever in 2015. When it comes to college freshmen, it is possible the polarization was present prior to students ever setting foot on campus.