The cover of the Tufts Observer’s special post-election issue depicts a flag-wrapped hand ripping out a bleeding heart, a fitting symbol for those who are shocked or scared by Donald Trump’s win – and a prime example of Tufts campus culture’s response to the 2016 presidential election.At the end of November, Tufts Enigma and the Tufts Daily surveyed 366 students about the election. The results point to a stark rejection of the next president by the vast majority of Tufts students. Nationally, Trump won 46% of the popular vote, but here at Tufts only 4% of students said they voted for him, and more than 80% view him very unfavorably.Nearly 80% of the students surveyed voted for Hillary Clinton, but she is not as overwhelmingly liked as Trump is disliked. A plurality, 45%, view Clinton somewhat favorably; an additional 23% view her very favorably, while 23% view her somewhat or very unfavorably.Gary Johnson garnered 4% of the vote, Jill Stein 2%. An additional 13% of respondents who said they were eligible to vote abstained did not vote, or marked “other.” Breaking down the results by gender, women were more likely to vote for Clinton, while men were more likely to vote third party or vote for Trump.
Outlook on the Nation
We measured respondents’ change of views of the nation on a 1 to 5 sale, with 1 being most negative, 5 being most positive, and 3 being unchanged. Most respondents, three out of four, view the nation more negatively than before the election.This question had a comment section, and many people who filled out the survey left their thoughts and opinions. Trying to be as representative as possible (and filtering out the profanity), the comments reflect:Profound disappointment in America
As a black person I always knew America was this racist, idiotic, and evil. The only people who seem to be shocked are white folks who are the ones who elected him anyway.
Support for Trump
I think Trump will implement policies that are far more moderate than those stated during the primary season. I am very optimistic about the state of our country going forward.
The fact that there were more people willing to vote for an orange glob of racist play-doh instead of a qualified woman did not surprise me.
And optimism in spite of the election’s result
The United States remains the greatest nation on earth, regardless of our new inept president-elect
– not to mention shock, anger at one or both political parties, and countless other responses.Because Trump’s rhetoric often targeted certain groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, immigrants, and Muslims, we were interested in how various groups of people shifted their outlook on the US. Using various statistical tests, including chi squared independence test and two sample z interval tests, we found that women had views that were about .7 to .3 points lower than men, meaning that women had a slightly more negative view of the nation after the election. The difference between races was less drastic, but still statistically significant, with white students ranking their views as .35 to .02 points lower, or more negative, than students of color. There were similar differences when we compared across race and gender.These differences show only correlation, not causation; however, some trends emerged from the comment section. Many white respondents indicated they were surprised by the results of the election and the amounts of racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry that still existed in our country. One white male respondent remarked,
I didn’t realize racism was so strong in this country.
Some students of color, on the other hand, were less surprised. An Asian woman reflected,
I’m not surprised by the outcome but gravely disappointed. As a person of color I didn’t have the ‘wow i think america is racist’ epiphany that a lot of my friends had, but I was still disheartened that so many voters viewed his inflammatory insults and history of assault as something that could be set aside.
In realizing the extent of bigotry that is present in the US, it is possible that many white students’ opinions of the country became more negative. On the other hand, students of color already familiar with present day racism may not have felt that the election represented much of a shift in the country.This phenomenon, however, cannot explain the gender divide in opinion of the country. Women, already subject to sexism, rated their view of the country as more negative than men, who do not experience this oppression. We could argue that recent comments from President-elect Trump that verbalized and validated violence against women made sexism more salient for women, causing their opinions of the US to be more negative.
Campus Climate vs. Political Leaning
We also asked our respondents if they “feel that the campus climate allows students to openly share their political beliefs.” The majority of students answered that this is true “most of the time,” or at least “some of the time.” These results, however, are skewed by the fact that the vast majority of respondents consider themselves liberal. When we cross tabulated this question against the question of whether students identify as more conservative or more liberal, the results reflect a different sentiment.Among somewhat conservative, moderately conservative, and very conservative respondents, 22 out of 27 thought that the campus climate “rarely” or “never” allows students to openly share their political beliefs. But among somewhat liberal, moderately liberal, and very liberal respondents, only 32/295 thought the same thing. The distributions between conservative students and liberal students contrast one another. This data supports the idea that as an ideological minority on campus, those holding more conservative views feel less comfortable speaking up.
One comment from a liberally identifying survey respondent could provide some context to help understand this. The person stated,
It’s heartening that the main reaction on campus seems to be more one of coming together rather than dividing further, although this is likely because we’ve got close to 100% blue here, or at any rate close to 0% red.
While this student values Tufts’ ability to come together, they think this is only possible because campus is heavily liberal. Not only does this perception limit the conservative student population to “close to 0%”, but the blue vs. red or liberal vs. conservative spectrum that our survey subscribed to is also problematic because it fails to account for many other ideologies. Some respondents commented saying that they don’t fit within this binary.
On the Issues
In addition to the election, we asked students what they thought about a variety of politically relevant topics.
Most students support
- LGBT anti-discrimination laws
- a minimum wage increase
- Marijuana legalization
- The Paris Climate Accords
- Debt-free public college
- Affirmative Action
- Renewable energy subsidies
- Tufts divesting from fossil fuels
- The Black Lives Matter Movement
- Admitting Syrian refugees into the US
Most students oppose
- The Dakota Access Pipeline
- Deporting undocumented immigrants
- Mandatory minimum sentences
Opinion was divided on the Syrian Civil War. Although almost no one strongly supported US military intervention, all the other options drew a similar number of responses.Some issues were unfamiliar to many students. The grand kahuna is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This proposed trade deal among 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific, promoted by President Obama and likely doomed now that Donald Trump is president, was unknown or unfamiliar to fully 40% of respondents. Those who did have an opinion slightly favored the deal. In addition, more that 20% of respondents didn’t know what they thought of the Paris Climate Accords, military intervention in Syria, and mandatory minimum sentences. Other than mandatory minimums, these issues unfamiliar to more students all relate to foreign policy.Conversely, every single respondent knew what they thought of LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws, and all but two knew what they thought about Black Lives Matter and marijuana legalization.
Very few Tufts students voted for the next President of the United States, putting the campus out of step with the country as a whole. Most view the country more negatively than before the election. In the words of one respondent, “Still hoping it’s a dream…” In the words of another, who would likely disapprove of the first, “The Tufts bubble has never been stronger.”
research, writing, and infographics by Hawley Brown, Nathan Foster, Nina Joung, James Kaufman, Nicola Shi, Minna Trinh