Politic Poll Examines Yalies’ Policy Preferences
Survey conducted by Eric Stern
According to a survey conducted in early February, The Politic found that Yale students generally self-identify as liberal and are remarkably supportive of President Barack Obama. As I wrote for The Politic on March 5:
Yale undergraduates overwhelmingly approve of President Obama and support his 2012 reelection campaign wholeheartedly. … Yale students are far more likely to identify as liberal (41 percent) or very liberal (18 percent) than they are as conservative (10 percent) or very conservative (3 percent). Another 28 percent of students identify as moderate.
A poll conducted by The Politic on April 5 and 6 found that Yale undergraduates are progressive not only in name, but swing left on a number of important policy questions.
89 percent, for example, express support for the legalization of same-sex marriage, with only 6.2 percent dissenting (and 4.6 percent unsure). Support for same-sex marriage spanned genders and residential colleges. These numbers reveal that Yale undergraduates are distinctly more supportive of same-sex marriage than the general population. A March 2012 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, for instance, found that 52 percent of Americans supported gay marriage legalization, while 44 percent were opposed (4 percent were unsure).
In fact, Yalies’ support for giving legal recognition to same-sex couples is even greater when the questioned is broadened to include civil unions as well as same-sex marriage. Fully 97.3 percent of students support some type of legal recognition (86.7 percent for marriage; 10.5 percent for civil unions), while just 2.7 percent think there should be no recognition at all.
Concerning recent debate about the alcohol consumption among those under the age of 21, 74.1 percent of students favor lowering the drinking age to 18 (with 16.2 percent saying they did not and 9.6 percent unsure). Support for lowering the drinking age was understandably higher among the three younger years (2015: 74.4 percent; 2014: 76.8 percent; 2013: 74.7 percent) and lowest among seniors (69.2 percent).
Students also express significant agreement with Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion. Students in support of the decision were recorded at an impressive 87.6 percent. This support ranges from 85 percent among male respondents to 90 percent among female respondents. Again, Yale students are found to be far more liberal than the American public. Indeed, a February 2012 poll about abortion and contraception by Bloomberg found that 64 percent of Americans agreed with Roe v. Wade (31 percent disagreed).
When asked if they believe taxes should be raised on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, 76.5 percent of students responded in the affirmative. Support for such a proposed law is highest among students in Branford (86.8) and Silliman (85.2%) and lowest in Morse (75.6%) and Timothy Dwight (75%)
While Yalies do not favor the legalization of all illegal drugs (when asked if they favored the legalization of cocaine, just 13.1 percent of students said they did), 74 percent of students favor the legalization of marijuana. This number is again much higher than the percentage of the American population. An October 2011 Gallup poll found that a record-high 50 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be made legal (up from 46 percent in 2012).
Interestingly, male Yalies support a measure to legalize pot with approximately 17.5 percent support; just 10 percent of women support such a proposal. (Support for legalizing cocaine, however, ranges from a paltry 5.8 percent among students in Jonathan Edwards College to a startling 23.9 percent of students in Morse.)
Only 21.6 percent of students favor a repeal of the President’s signature domestic accomplishment, “Obamacare” (officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). Support for repeal decreases with each year. Just 14 percent of seniors favor repeal, compared with 18.5 percent of juniors, 21.4 percent of sophomores and 29.3 percent of freshman. (It is worth noting that a signature facet of the new healthcare law allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26.)
When asked if they favor a year of mandatory national service (e.g. military service, AmeriCorps, etc.), only 21.8 percent of students responded in the affirmative. Support was highest among those most likely to be closely examining the job market (seniors gave the measure 25.4 percent support) and juniors were most likely to be opposed (only 18.1 percent supported such a proposal).
Yale undergraduates also have strong opinions on matters of foreign policy. 46.3 percent of students, for instance, think the US has been too supportive of Israel, while just 5.9 percent think we have been not supportive enough, 23.4 percent characterize the relationship as “about right” and 24.4 percent do not know. The starkest gender gap among Yalies does not appear on the issue of abortion or same-sex marriage, but rather concers support for Israel. 52.3 percent of males believe the US has been too supportive of Israel, compared with less than 41 percent of females.
Meanwhile, only 14.1 percent of students would support sending troops into Syria to aid anti-government groups. 17.7 percent, however, would support sending the groups arms while nearly one in four students (24.7 percent) would support drone strikes. A decisive 58.2 percent, however, would support diplomatic and/or economic sanctions against Syria.
The practical meaning of these numbers is unclear. However, as The Politic concluded after the previous survey, “Yalies also report being far more enthusiastic about the 2012 elections than members of the general public. 89 percent of students polled say they plan on voting in the 2012 elections.”
The Politic sent out an email to randomly selected Yale undergraduates at 2:00 pm on the afternoon of Thursday, April 5. In the next 36 hours, 755 students responded.