Hardly a day goes by without hearing arguments that today’s students are way too liberal, burning down the country, assaulting conservative speakers, and planning the militant overthrow of the United States of America. But the evidence is quite different. Results from a recent survey reveal that college-age students may be just a little more conservative than older voters.
During the recent health care battle, the Hornstein Center of Long Island University conducted a survey of voters of all ages on the issue. Now if you’re a conservative, the overall news isn’t so good. Strong majorities showed opposition to the GOP health care plans, and even the Obamacare repeal, big or skinny. It’s no surprise that the effort went down in flames.
But if you are a Republican, a conservative, or even a Trump supporter, there’s some hope for the future. That’s because the younger voters are the ones most eager to agree with you.
Exhibit 1: When it comes to the Republican plan for repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something else, a majority of all voters strongly disapproved of it, followed by another eight percent who slightly disapprove. But younger voters were the least likely to have such sentiments. Only 40 percent of those under 30 strongly disapproved of GOP health care plans, with another eight percent slightly disapproving of them. Other age groups (30-45, 46-65 and 65+) were much stronger in opposition to the GOP plans.
Exhibit 2: Voters in the survey were also asked for their support for a single-payer system, a free market system, or a hybrid of government and private market. It may shock you to learn that college-age voters were the most likely to support the free market system (of all ages), and the least likely to back a government-run national health care system (compared to all ages).
Exhibit 3: Finally, voters of all ages were polled about their support for values related to health care. A clear majority of voters believe that the national government should play a strong role in health care. But if you’re a college-age voter, you’re the least likely to support this argument.
If you’re a strong liberal or conservative, you’re likely to dismiss these results. After all, there are so many images of students on college campuses that are easy to see on TV, or the social media of your choice. A picture says a thousand words, and a video probably says a million, even though we’re talking about the tiniest fraction of students.
In addition, many of these images and events are highly prone to manipulation. Not only have I written about right-wing provocateurs whom the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) disinvited from their conference, but demand that colleges host in prime time slots in the biggest rooms on campus.
It’s easy to dismiss polls as all fake (and the small number of state polls lent themselves to be unreliable), even though the national polling average showed Clinton winning the national vote by three percentage points (she won by two). Fox News had Clinton winning by four points.
Feel free to blow off the results, whatever you think of polls. But the party that listens to college-age voters, instead of blowing them off or talking down to them, is going to win their loyalty in the 2018 mid-term elections, the 2020 president election, and beyond.
John A. Tures is associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JohnTures2.