US sees drift to Left on campus

March 16, 2007

US university students are starting to move to the Left after years of conservative drift, polarising American campuses.

An annual study found that first-year students were discussing politics more than they had in 40 years and the proportion who called themselves liberal was at its highest point since 1975.

But national divisions are also reflected on campus, since a record number of university students also consider themselves conservative.

It is better than apathy, said Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, which conducted the survey.

She said: "This bodes well for fostering democratic citizenship. Colleges are responsible for educating the next generation of leaders, and it's exciting that students are entering with greater political and civic awareness. This often means students will seek more information, ask questions and interact more around issues that affect American society."

More than 28 per cent of students described themselves as liberal, while about 24 per cent said they were conservative.

John Pryor, who directed the survey, said: "Where the issues also divide the student body, as with gay rights and abortion, we will likely see more controversy in those discussions."

Most students who describe themselves as liberals are in favour of both gay marriage and abortion rights, while two thirds of conservatives are not.

More liberal students than conservatives want an end to the death penalty and the legalisation of marijuana.

Equal numbers in both groups - about half of conservative students and almost half of liberals - agree that there should be an end to racial preference in university admissions.

Two thirds of all students are anxious about the high cost of university tuition fees.

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