A recent survey of political opinion, sponsored by Yale’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, found that while a majority of college students across the country are liberal, a considerable portion support neither of the major presidential candidates.
The survey, conducted in September by polling group McLaughlin Associates, polled 800 full-time undergraduate students at public and private colleges and universities. The survey found that 42 percent of college students plan to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton LAW ’73, while only 19 percent plan to vote for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
According to Buckley staff, the survey results highlight the Republican Party’s failure to connect to college students, a shortcoming exacerbated by the party’s current nominee.
“This survey should definitely concern Republicans, but I also think there’s cause for concern among Democrats too,” said Buckley Founder and Executive Director Lauren Noble ’11. “It is certainly clear that there is a large segment of the U.S. college student population who does not care for Clinton or Trump.”
The three-part survey was conducted in September and covered a wide range of topics beyond the current presidential race. The first part, released Oct. 6, showed that a large portion of college students support neither of the two main parties’ candidates. Seventeen percent of college respondents supported Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson and seven percent supported Jill Stein of the Green Party.
The Buckley Program was founded in 2011 with the mission to promote intellectual diversity at Yale by providing a home for conservative thought, the program’s website says.
The survey also asked students to speculate about the political leanings of their professors. For every one professor who students said supports Trump, students said there were four Clinton-supporting professors.
Noble said she was particularly surprised by college students’ strong support for independent candidates. Gary Johnson in particular won the support of a plurality of college independents, with 29 percent of the vote, the survey found.
Noble also noted the significance of the survey’s finding that only 57 percent of college Republicans support Trump. For Noble, this result is another sign of the Republican party’s struggle to attract younger voters. When asked what the Republican party should do differently, Nobel responded unequivocally.
“Don’t nominate candidates like Donald Trump,” Noble said.
The survey’s finding regarding professors did not come as a surprise to Noble, who cited a 2012 survey conducted by the News that found almost 97 percent of political contributions by Yale employees in 2012 went toward Democratic candidates.
Jacob Bendicksen ’20 said the survey results reinforced his preconception that the majority of academia, both college students and professors, is liberal by a wide margin.
“I think it is important in the polarizing political environment that we’re in that professors try to present all sides of an issue, even when the professors and the students agree and it’s easier for [the professors] to stick with saying things that they know their students would like to hear,” Bendicksen said.
Katherine Whiting ’17 was also surprised by the strong support for independent candidates among college students who responded to the survey.
“I wonder if [the voters] think that their votes are going to hinder another opponent’s chance of winning,” Whiting said.
This is the second annual survey about political opinions in academia sponsored by the Buckley program. Last year’s survey questions addressed college students’ opinions on free speech and diversity of thought. The second part of the 2016 survey — which focuses on American college students’ knowledge of U.S. government and history — was published Oct. 7.
The third part of the survey will be published later this week.