Peer Influence on Political Preference Post 1: Survey

My interest in this particular topic was especially heightened this fall around the time of the 2016 Presidential election. I found most students were liberal and not afraid of expressing their support of candidates for the Democratic party. Many who were not as inclined to be outspoken regarding their political preferences were not necessarily ill-informed regarding the current political climate or lacked interest in the election. They had something in common, they were moderate or conservative and did not identify with Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton, nor Donald Trump. They did not want to express their opposition for Clinton, as it might be confused for support of Trump. Many of those who I talked with were cautious to discuss any specific candidates in fear of being associated with the presented characteristics of a Trump voter. I felt that the reason why many moderate and conservative students believed that they could not express their political opinions on campus because they were in such a political minority, yet as I talked with more and more students, I quickly realized that William & Mary has a significant population of moderately conservative and conservative students.

This all lead to the development of my political preference research project. Just by observing campaigns and political action coalitions targeted at college-aged students, one infers that social issues are their greatest concern. From this survey, I hope to find that average political preference of students as the College is moderate, yet that social issue preferences are skewed more liberal. I predict this may be a result of a greater number of social issue political action groups at the College as opposed to fiscal action.

In the survey, I ask a variety of questions to gauge political preferences and understand where they come from. To identify different groups within the sample, I ask demographic questions such as year at the College, gender identity, country of origin, home state (if from United States), type of hometown, and age of voter registration. From this I will be able to see the trends of Virginia students versus out of state, among types of hometowns, and those who took an active effort in political involvement by registering to vote at age 18. To investigate the subject’s political preference and involvement, I ask several scale based questions. To measure political involvement and mobilization, subjects will be asked questions about various outlets of involvement such as political organization membership, voting, and contact with elected representatives regarding themselves, their family, and peers at the College. These are assessed on a scale of not active, sparingly active, somewhat active, very active, and extremely active. I will also investigate frequency of political discussion in various outlets, such as peers, family, strangers, and social media on a scale of never, rarely, sometimes, often, and always. Using the scale of extremely liberal, moderately liberal, moderate, moderately conservative, and extremely conservative, I ask about political views on various social issues like abortion, immigration, and climate change. Finally, I inquire about the subject’s position on the political spectrum and with which political party they identify most.

I look forward to seeing the results of the survey and learning more about political engagement and preferences among College students.

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