Student Survey Investigates Political Values of Class of 2016

News Story: January 28, 2013

As part of the course requirements for Sacred Heart University’s First-Year Honors Seminar taught by Gary Rose during the fall of 2012, students were assigned the task of conducting a survey regarding the political values and orientations of the Class of 2016. To accomplish this, 150 freshman students were surveyed within the three dormitories that house freshman students. In addition to the surveys, the students conducted personal interviews with several small focus groups. The students worked in small research groups, with each group assigned a specific task. The several bodies of research were then merged, resulting in a data-based paper.

Here are the conclusions of this study:

  • Among the 150 respondents, the top policy concerns relevant to their choice of candidates pertained to the economy, national security and health care.
  • Among the females surveyed, the major concerns were health care, national security and the economy. Among the males surveyed, the major concerns appeared to be the economy, health care, national security, as well as the national debt, which was tied with national security as a priority item.
  • There are contradicting ways the candidates were portrayed in the media that apparently influenced the freshmen’s perceptions of the two candidates. Nevertheless, the candidates’ morals and a good sense of business were the attributes regarded as the most important among the students surveyed.
  • The Class of 2016 is far more Republican than Democratic, although a large portion of the class seems disconnected from the two-party system and politics in general. How this compares to campuses across the country should be a topic for further research.  
  • A higher percentage of Catholic students support the Republican Party compared to the Democratic Party, although a large percentage of Catholic students are unaffiliated or do not know enough about politics to declare any form of political allegiance. It was difficult to determine if the Catholic identity of our students actually influenced political orientations and preferences.
  • Well over a majority of the freshman class is registered to vote. This finding suggests that the freshman class does at least have a desire to become involved in politics and to vote on Election Day.
  • Overall, we discovered that the Class of 2016 favored Governor Mitt Romney for President of the United States. This we felt could best be explained by considering policy issues deemed important by the students, the party affiliation of the students’ parents, disapproval of Obama’s past performance and the appeal of Romney.
  • When asked how political they were, most freshmen seemed to care about politics, but did not follow this election very closely, due to a lack of time and understanding.
  • When asked to reflect on President Obama’s first term in office, the responses were varied and suggested polarized perceptions of the presidential candidates.
  • When the students reflected on the 2012 election, many students had varied opinions on the results, depending on their personal and political views.