New Study: College Students Increasingly Liberal, Yet Less Politically Active

Liberalism Up, Political Engagement Down Among College Freshmen

The Occupy College protests and demonstrations against college tuition-hikes on campuses across the country may paint a portrait of an increasingly liberal and engaged U.S. student population, but that portrait would only be half right. A new study shows that college freshmen do indeed hold more liberal views than ever before on social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and immigration rights. But today's students are not necessarily motivated to act on these views.

Findings of research released today by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute show that leaning further left does not translate to heightened political activity or enthusiasm about national politics among college freshmen.

When the same survey was conducted in 1997, just over half of respondents said that they supported same-sex marriage, whereas the most recent survey found that a record high of 71 percent of college freshmen support same-sex marriage. The most recent findings of UCLA's "American Freshman" poll -- which has been conducted since 1966 -- also showed that 49 percent of freshmen believe that marijuana should be legalized, as opposed to 45 percent in 2008.

Yet the survey showed that increasingly liberalism did not correlate with higher levels of political engagement. Only 10 percent of freshmen surveyed said that they had worked on a local, state-wide, or national campaign during the past year, down from as high as 15 percent at different points over the past four decades.

The survey also looked at students' reasons for attending college and attitudes toward higher education, finding that more students than ever cite job concerns as their main objective of pursuing higher education.

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