This year’s college freshman class includes the highest percentage of liberal students since Watergate, and Bernie Sanders could be the reason.
According to UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey, roughly one-third (33.5 percent) of freshmen entering a four-year institution in 2015 considered themselves to be liberal, or saw their political views as leaning “far left.” This marks the highest percentage of liberal students since 1973, which was the year Republican president Richard Nixon was first accused of having involvement in the Watergate scandal.
Comparatively, 21.6 percent of incoming students identified as conservative, or acknowledged that their political views leaned, “far right.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic bid in the presidential election, has focused much of his campaign efforts on tackling college affordability. According to the Washington Post, Sanders has drawn the support of far more millennials than any other candidate currently running in any party.
Sanders popularity among college-aged voters could be responsible for this spike in potential voters.
“I’m Democratic Socialist. I’m all for Bernie,” Ferris undecided freshman Sierra Ojeda said.
Ojeda, who would find herself representing the third of freshman students that lean far left on the political spectrum, sees Sanders as the obvious choice over Hillary Clinton for the Democratic ballot come election time.
“She tries so hard, but all of her views are twisted,” Ojeda said. “She’s saying everything, practically, that Bernie says because she’s realizing that the young people like him and not her. It’s sad that a lot of her supporters are girls that just think it’s time for a woman president. It’s not time for an idiot woman president.”
Ojeda believes that in addition to Sanders’ support from college-aged voters, social media hype has also played a role in the increased interest in voting among millennials.
“I think the social media movement has really changed our views on politics. Millenials are all over Facebook. I mean, politics are everywhere, memes are everywhere—it’s really helped bring politics to our attention,” Ojeda said.
In 2014, which was a midterm year, just over half of students claimed that they had a “very good” chance of voting in a local, state or national election while in college. This year that number has seen almost a 10 percent increase, with 59.8 percent of students stating that they’re very likely to vote while attending college.
Ferris social work freshman Lindsey Schader doesn’t tie herself to any one party, but does plan on voting for Sanders should he appear on the presidential ballot.
“I’m more in the middle. If I had to pick one it’d probably be Bernie, but I wouldn’t vote for anyone just because of their party,” Schader said.
Schader believes that if each student attending Ferris were polled on their preferred candidate, the bid would go to the current Republican frontrunner.
“Honestly, I think it’d be Trump, which kind of worries me. A lot of people around here are stuck in a certain mindset and don’t see his racism.”
It is true that not all Ferris students are “feeling the Bern” on campus. Ferris welding engineering freshman Adam Petrowitz saw himself as independent, but tended to side with Republicans in fiscal matters, while generally leaning left for social issues.
“I really do look at what the views are. Free college would be nice for Bernie Sanders, but that means other people are paying for it. Free isn’t really free,” Petrowitz said. “I do plan on voting. I’ll look at it once it gets a little closer and break down what the views are.”
For information on registering to vote in Michigan, visit http://www.dmv.org/mi-michigan/voter-registration.php.