A recent Stanford Daily poll of 457 students shows that Stanford undergraduates, 63% of whom identify as Democrats, strongly support Hillary Clinton for the presidency. Only 4% supported Donald Trump. However, the poll found a greater diversity in the general political positions of the students.
Facing a liberal majority of 63 percent, students ranged from all political backgrounds in terms of ideology. The independents come in second with 12%, followed by the Socialists with 11%, the conservatives with 9% and the libertarians with 6.3%. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Nonetheless, students and campus groups of different political affiliations found common ground even in the midst of a heated election by encouraging civic engagement and political discussion.
âWe have noticed that when we co-organize events [with the Stanford Conservative Society], including mock presidential debates, there are many more deals than either organization could have predicted, âsaid Gabe Rosen, CFO of the Stanford Democrats ’19. “It shows that there is still some common ground between us, and since we’ve become so hyper partisan, it’s good to know that there are some things we can still agree on.”
Political climate on campus
More than 90 percent of recently surveyed undergraduates said they think Stanford is a majority liberal campus, while 62 percent identified themselves as having majority liberal views.
“I would say that the majority [of Stanford undergraduates] â¦ Are in fact liberal, âsaid Marissa MacAvoy ’20, member of the Stanford Democrats. “I think even people who don’t vote as Democrats or are registered as Democrats definitely have liberal leanings, even though they’re not fiscally Democrats.”
Conservative students interviewed in person characterized themselves as more moderate on social issues than the average Republican, although their beliefs in other areas are at odds with those of the Democratic Party.
However, the survey results seem to indicate that there are more non-liberal students than some students thought, although they may be less candid about their beliefs.
“I have the impression that there is in fact a strong Republican community [on campus]Stanford College Republican President Elise Kostial ’18 said. Stanford are generally very respectful of each other’s views and are interested in engaging in civil dialogue.
Despite the perceived liberal atmosphere on campus, conservative students polled by The Daily said they feel comfortable voicing their political views among most, but not all, of their peers.
âI had a lot of good conversations, especially with people from [my] dorm, on politics, and I said what I believe and they say what they believe, and we’re just talking about it, âsaid self-identified Republican Jimmy Rabe ’20. “I have the impression that there are definitely people in [my] dormitory or in [my] to classify [whom] I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing my beliefs with them because they would be very aggressive and they would attack me for my beliefs, but I think most people here regardless of their tendencies will be respectful.
This is a sentiment shared by other students on campus, as 84 percent of students surveyed indicated that they felt comfortable expressing their beliefs on campus. However, 16% of students said they did not feel they could freely express their opinions and 55% said that if they could personally, others could not.
Ultimately, even if political parties play an important role in filtering candidate platforms, civic engagement is a matter of discourse between individuals, according to political science professor Rob Reich.
âPolitical debate and contestation over ideas is healthy for a democracy,â he said, âand one would like that deliberation to be a common feature on campus. “
Political commitment of student groups
Just days before election day, student groups and Stanford administrators are stepping up efforts to encourage political engagement among students. More recently, Stanford in Government (SIG) released a video featuring prominent campus figures telling students to âgo Card, go vote,â regardless of political affiliation.
âWe don’t tell students what to vote for,â said SIG communications director Olivia Martin ’19. “We’re basically trying to remove as many barriers to voting as possible.”
While Stanford as an institution remains apolitical, students have had to carefully consider their political positions as they filled out their ballots to make informed decisions on many high-impact issues, including the presidential race but also the local initiatives and ballot races.
âI hope students on campus pay attention to more than the presidential election,â said Reich, who appeared in the SIG video. âIf they’re from California, maybe they’re paying attention to the complicated ballot proposals. In some ways these are the most interesting races.
Increasing voter registration and raising awareness of voting issues has been the goal of several organizations on campus, both partisan and non-partisan. In addition to its “Get Out the Vote” video, SIG has partnered with the Stanford Voter Project to increase voter registration on campus by registering students at mess halls and community events.
To educate students and encourage conversation across ideological lines, Republicans at Stanford College, the Stanford Conservative Society, and Democrats at Stanford have also teamed up to host debate viewing nights as well as a mock presidential debate.
According to Rosen of the Stanford Democrats, a common goal of student political groups is to ensure that students of all political affiliations can both speak out and get involved. Groups have jointly organized events to create spaces for students to debate those who might disagree with their views, Rosen said.
“I would really encourage young people of all political stripes at Stanford to voice their opinions,” Kostial said of College Republicans. âI think as long as we’re ready to engage in civil and respectful dialogue, we can all learn a lot from each other’s perspectives, and I think the whole campus benefits when everyone shares their opinions. “
Contact Cindy Kuang at ckuang “at” stanford.edu and Jonathan Seymour at seymourj “at” stanford.edu.