LOS ANGELES — Centrists, while still a plurality on college campuses, are fewer in number than in any other time in recent history, a new study examining the collegiate political divide finds.
In a new annual report titled the Freshman Survey, researchers at UCLA found that only 42 percent of freshmen described themselves as being “middle of the road” politically.
This can be juxtaposed against 36 percent of first-year students who considered themselves liberal or on the far left, and 22 percent who saw themselves to be conservative or on the far right.
The right-left divide is particularly glaring across genders: 41 percent of women considered themselves liberal, compared to only 29 percent of men. This spread is the highest recorded gap since the report’s founding in 1966.
Interestingly, left-leaning students (87 percent) reported being more tolerant of people with different beliefs than centrists (82 percent) and right-leaning students (68 percent).
The study also examined other issues experienced by students on college campuses, including the rising cost of tuition and an increase in mental health problems.
Notably, 56 percent of freshmen expressed concern about being able to afford college, a figure that was higher for females, minorities, and first-generation college students.
For the first time in the survey’s history, less than half (47 percent) of the students polled felt that their mental health was better than that of their peers.
Other trends found were students using social media excessively, more students living at home their freshman year, and more students choosing to attend a local college.
The study’s results, published and sponsored by The Chronicle of Higher Education, were derived from 137,456 freshman students at 184 universities across the United States.
It is speculated that last year’s election contributed to many of the political divides found in the study.