Politics on the Quad: Students Report on Division and Disagreement at Five US Universities

Graham Wright, Shahar Hecht, Michelle Shain, Leonard Saxe and Stephanie Howland

November 2019

Politics on the Quad cover“Politics on the Quad: Students Report on Division and Disagreement at Five US Universities” is a new report from our program of research on the identities and experiences of US college students. This report examines five institutions, Brandeis University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of Florida, Gainesville. The report draws on survey data collected in the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2018-19 academic years from representative samples of undergraduates at these schools. In this report we explore two overarching questions regarding the political climate on the college campus:

  1. How divided are liberal, moderate, and conservative students at each of these five schools with respect to their political attitudes, their perceptions of the campus environment, and their place within the campus community?
  2. How do these divisions differ in magnitude and nature from one campus to the next?

Key Findings

Conclusion

The results presented in this report suggest that broad generalizations regarding the political climate on US college campuses are inaccurate and unhelpful. The role that politics plays in campus life differs from one campus to the next. Discussions of this topic should acknowledge the variation across particular institutions.