Class of 2021: Taking stock of political beliefs

2021 by the numbers:
Taking stock of political beliefs

Published on September 1, 2017

Coming from across the globe and bringing a diversity of perspectives and opinions, the class of 2021 has a variety, but no dearth, of opinions on the questions and controversies animating campus and national discourse alike.

A News survey distributed to the class of 2021 earlier this summer asked the incoming first years about their opinions on local and national issues. One thousand, two hundred and sixty-seven members of the class responded, yielding a response rate of 80 percent. The results were not adjusted for selection bias.

TRUMP AND 2021

The class of 2021, on the whole, tended to have a negative impression of U.S. President Donald Trump. Just over 5 percent of respondents indicated that they somewhat or strongly favored the president, while only around 3 percent think the current direction of the U.S. government is “good” or “very good.” By contrast, 87 percent of respondents view former U.S. President Barack Obama in a positive light.

Respondents more or less disagree with most of Trump’s major policies to date. Only 4 percent expressed views aligned with Trump’s executive order banning transgender individuals from military service. Similarly, while Trump and the Republican Party have pushed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, less than 8 percent of respondents viewed these efforts favorably.

Overall, the class of 2021 disagrees with Trump’s approach to symbols involving America’s legacy of slavery and discrimination. Though Trump tweeted that he was against the removal of Confederate symbols and monuments in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, first years seem to be open to discussions about these symbols and whether they should be changed or removed. The majority of respondents — over 70 percent — were supportive of Yale possibly changing the names of buildings and other campus structures named after historical proponents of slavery, and a plurality — 35 percent — of first years supported the renaming of Calhoun College.

“I think the administration should be proactive about asking its students and faculty for input on this issue,” Alice Park ’21 said. “With such a charged political climate, it’s important for Yale to make decisions without swaying to outside pressures.”

Park also said that Yale should be open to making changes and owning up to past transgressions so that students of all races and ethnicities feel safe and welcomed on campus.

RACE IN ADMISSIONS

While the United States Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into Harvard’s admissions policies towards Asian-American applicants has raised questions about the equity of race-based admissions policies generally, the majority of survey respondents stand behind the fairness of the College’s admissions process with regard to race. More than half of respondents indicated that they thought Yale’s admission policies are fair, while less than 10 percent felt they were unfair. The remaining 40 percent answered that they were “unsure.”

David Hidalgo-Gato ’21 said he felt that Yale’s policies were fair, and noted that he had met students from many different backgrounds campus who “all seem open to learning and embracing other races and cultures.”

“I think Yale has done a good job of managing these demographics to create a racially diverse community where anyone can feel welcome,” he said.

Still, some first-year respondents did feel that race played a role in their chances of admission to Yale. While the majority thought that race did not affect their odds, around 39 percent of respondents felt their racial identity did play a role in their admissions decision.

Of that 39 percent, more than half felt that their racial or ethnic background had a negative impact on their chances of admission. And of those who felt their racial background negatively affected their odds of admission, the plurality identified as Caucasian, with these respondents making up a third of the cohort that felt negatively-affected. Another 27 percent of this category was made up of Asian American respondents, while only 6 percent of this group identified as Indian American. About 17 percent of those who felt like their race negatively affected their chances of admission identified as Latino.

Most respondents who thought their race had a negative impact on their odds of admission were unsure whether or not Yale’s admissions policies regarding race are fair, while most of those who felt their race benefited their chances found the policies fair.

Of those who felt like their race positively influenced their chances of getting into Yale, the plurality identified as Latino or Hispanic American, just outnumbering Caucasian respondents.

For the 9 percent of respondents who thought Yale’s handling of race in admissions is unfair, the most common reason for this opinion was that the policies disadvantaged Asian American applicants.

ON-CAMPUS OPINIONS

Members of the class of 2021 also weighed in on many campus issues, controversies and recent changes.

Just under half of respondents to the News’ survey thought that the term “freshman” should not be replaced by “first year,” with only 11 percent agreeing with the change. Most supported mixed gender housing for upperclassmen, while most were against mixed gender housing for first years.

The largest share of respondents said they were unconcerned about freedom of speech on campus.

First years interviewed felt that freedom of speech on campus is important, but also agreed that hate speech is a potential threat to the community. Jack Fresquez ’21 said he thought free speech must not only be tolerated but also “promoted and protected” at Yale. He added, however, that Yale should be protected from “violence and violent speech.”

Similarly, Hidalgo-Gato said he thought Yale welcomed students expressing their rights to speak their minds, “so long as it doesn’t severely disturb the peace.”

First years were also on the whole unconcerned about the effects of the new residential colleges on their Yale experience. About 50 percent of respondents thought the colleges would have a positive impact on campus life, with 3 percent disagreeing.

“I feel grateful that the two new colleges have allowed Yale to accept more students in the class of 2021”, said Park, a student in Silliman. “I think the 200 additional students in my year will add to Yale’s rich community of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.”

Luke Ciancarelli | luke.ciancarelli@yale.edu | @lvc250 

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