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College Poll: Religion, Morality Play Important Roles in Politics

A new national poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) shows that religion and morality play an important role in the decision of college students in the upcoming election.

College Poll: Religion, Morality Play Important Roles in Politics

As the jostling and patriotic speech preparation begin with the 2008 presidential campaign just around the corner, a new national poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics (IOP) shows that religion and morality play an important role in the decision of college students in the upcoming election.

The poll results show that seven out of ten American college students believe that religion is somewhat to very important in their lives despite differences on political lines and over how strong a role religion should play in politics and government today. Even with these differences, more than half of the polled students agree that they are concerned about the moral direction of the country.

“Religion is not only very important in the lives of college students today, but also religion and morality are critical to how students think about politics and form opinions on political issues,” said IOP Director Jeanne Shaheen in a report by Harvard on Apr. 11. “The political parties and candidates should take note of the significant number of votes and key swing constituency that college students represent for the 2006 and 2008 elections.”

Students said that “hot-button” issues such as abortion policy, gay marriage and stem cell research are issues of morality, and many agree that the Government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, education policy and Iraq war policy are also questions of morality.

Using an innovative method for assessing the political ideology of America’s college students, IOP found that students do not fit traditional ideological labels like liberal and conservative. The eleven-question “Harvard Institute of Politics’ Political Personality Test” also show that 40 percent are religious and secular centrists who incorporate religious views with their political attitudes and actions.

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The survey of 1,200 college students drawn randomly from a national database of nearly 5.1 million students found that:

• A quarter of the students (25%) surveyed said that they have become more spiritual since entering college as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual

• A majority of students agree somewhat or strongly that hot-button issues like abortion policy (61%), stem cell research (51%), and gay marriage (50%) are questions of morality; but a full fifty percent (50%) of college students also say the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina was a question of morality.

• In general, students were optimistic about the country’s future with more than four in ten (46%) of college students agreeing that they are optimistic about the country’s future.

• This year’s survey reveals that a full forty percent (40%) of college students think about politics in a different way, with religion and morality playing a major role. One in four college students (25%) can now be classified as “Religious Centrist,” a group which grew by four points (up from 21%) over the past year. Traditional Conservatives have increased by two points (16% from 14%) since 2005, Traditional Liberals remain largely unchanged, and Secular Centrists (now 15%) are smaller by three points.

• Splitting in the 2004 elections nearly evenly for President Bush and Senator Kerry, the Religious Centrist will likely be the critical swing vote in the 2008 elections. Optimistic about the future and very likely to participate in elections, the Religious Centrists’ views are characterized by a deep concern over the moral direction of the country. With a large concentration of African Americans and Hispanic students, Religious Centrists support free trade, strongly support universal healthcare and are very protective of the environment.

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