Politics

Study: College freshmen more engaged in politics, civics than previous years

FILE: In a recent survey of freshmen, 60 percent of students report they are very likely to vote during their college careers.
FILE: In a recent survey of freshmen, 60 percent of students report they are very likely to vote during their college careers.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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A new report from UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute finds that today’s first-year college students are more interested in politics and civic engagement than ever before.

That's based on the five decades the survey has been taken by freshmen around the country. 

"This year's incoming first-year student or freshman is somebody who is much more politically active," said Kevin Eagan, the lead author of the report.

Findings show that 40 percent of incoming freshmen said they want to become community leaders, while 60 percent say they are very likely to vote during their college careers. 

"If those students end up following through on those intentions, they could end up having an important influence in the upcoming election cycle," Eagan said. 

Since young adults make up 32 percent of California’s population, they could have a major impact on election results. That'd be a shift from the state's 2014 general election when just 8 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted. 

The survey also found that more students are moving to the left politically. About 35 percent of incoming freshman identified themselves as "liberal" or "far left" — the highest level since 1973.

On the right, numbers are on the decline, with 27 percent of students saying they are "conservative" or "far right."

To come up with their findings, the researchers surveyed 141,189 first-time students entering 199 four-year colleges and universities in the United States in fall 2015.