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Freshmen Split on Defunding Police, Other Hot-Button Political Issues

By Justin Y. Ye
By Hannah J. Martinez and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

This is Part III of our Freshman Survey series. Part I is here and Part II is here. Part IV will be released later this week, along with full data and visualizations.

In keeping with previous freshman classes, Harvard’s Class of 2025 remains predominantly liberal — with 72.4 percent identifying as either “somewhat” or “very” liberal and 76.2 percent supporting Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In fact, the proportion of freshmen in the Class of 2025 who identified as “very” liberal increased by 3.5 percent compared to the Class of 2024.

Nonetheless, freshmen’s views on national issues, such as national protests against police brutality and proposals to defund the police, are more conservative this year than those of freshmen last year.

Compared to the Class of 2024, 11.1 percent fewer members of the Class of 2025 favor defunding police departments. Similarly, the proportion of those who favor defunding the Harvard University Police Department dropped by 9.2 percent between the Classes of 2024 and 2025.

Fewer members of this year’s freshman class — 5.9 percent less — favor national protests against police brutality and systemic racism than did last year’s freshmen. Nonetheless, the percentage of students who attended such protests between the two classes are almost identical: 30.6 percent of the Class of 2024 and 30.7 percent of the Class of 2025.

Just before starting their first semesters at Harvard, roughly 78 percent of freshmen responded to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The anonymous survey explores topics ranging from political ideology to sexual experience to Covid-19’s impact on their mental health. Of 1,965 students comprising the Class of 2025, 1,537 freshmen responded. The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the results. Due to rounding, reported statistics may not total exactly 100 percent.

This third installment of The Crimson’s four-part survey of the Class of 2025 examines their beliefs on politics, religion, and Harvard issues, as well as aspects of their lifestyle, such as sex, drugs, mental health counseling, and technology.

Politics

Of the Class of 2025 who supported a candidate, regardless of whether they were eligible to vote, 87 percent supported Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election — 3.1 percent fewer than Class of 2024 students who indicated they planned to vote for Biden last year.

Those supporting Donald Trump in the election dropped from 7.1 to 6.3 between the two class years. Of those who supported a candidate, 6.7 percent of the Class of 2025 supported Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

Freshmen not affiliated with any political party rose by 3.3 percent, from 22.6 percent in the Class of 2024 to 25.9 percent in the Class of 2025. The proportion of Democratic freshmen decreased from 57.4 percent last year to 55 percent this year, while the proportion of Republican freshmen decreased from 5.2 percent to 5 percent. Independents make up 11.8 percent of the Class of 2025 and libertarians 1.3 percent.

The proportion of freshmen in the Class of 2025 identifying as liberal remained unchanged from last year — 72.4 percent. Those identifying as “very liberal” rose from 31.7 percent of the class to 35.2 percent between the Class of 2024 and 2025.

Religion

Freshmen mostly identified as not at all religious (32.3 percent) or not very religious (21.5 percent); only 2.4 percent of respondents said they were extremely religious.

Religious involvement varied by gender and sexuality. No genderqueer or nonbinary respondent identified as extremely religious, and less women — 46.9 percent — identified as extremely religious compared to men at 53.1 percent. Only straight respondents identified as extremely religious.

In addition, the Class of 2025’s religious involvement correlated with their political beliefs. No respondent who identified as extremely religious said they were very liberal, compared to 44.2 percent of nonreligious respondents. Likewise, only 4.2 percent of nonreligious respondents said they were very conservative, compared to 12.5 percent of extremely religious respondents.

Harvard Issues

Eighty percent of genderqueer and nonbinary freshmen have concerns over experiencing sexual harassment or assault in college, and 76.4 percent of those identifying as female also reported sharing these concerns. In contrast, just 7.3 percent of those identifying as male reported such concerns.

Of this year’s freshmen, 88.2 percent support Harvard’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for on-campus students.

Among the Class of 2025, 74.1 percent support Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Automobile Workers’ efforts to negotiate higher wages and greater job protections in their second contract with Harvard.

Additionally, 68.1 percent support divesting endowment funds from fossil fuel investments, compared to 73.3 percent of the Class of 2024.

Regarding the Student for Fair Admissions’ lawsuit against Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process, 27.1 percent of freshmen said they favored the suit, while 25.3 percent responded unfavorably; the rest reported having no opinion or not enough information on the matter.

Among the freshmen, 66.4 percent support the push for Harvard to create an official Ethnic Studies department.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that certain high-level student athletes could receive increases in education-related compensation for the use of their likeness, although the ruling had little effect on athletes at Harvard. Two-thirds of the freshmen — 66.4 percent — reported being in favor of the ruling, with 4.1 percent opposed.

Sex

The Class of 2025 may come into an unconventional campus with rigid Covid-19 testing protocols and masked classes, but they have something in common with previous classes: 62.4 percent of them are virgins. Freshmen who considered themselves to be extremely religious were more likely than their nonreligious classmates to be virgins; 91.3 percent of respondents who said they were extremely religious were virgins, compared to 56.2 percent of respondents who identified as not very religious.

Consistent with previous years, most of the Class of 2025 who reported having had sex said they only had one partner, at 48.1 percent of non-virgins. The number of freshmen who said they had more than one sexual partner decreased with nearly every additional partner, only increasing at the seven and more-than-ten partners mark.

Students who reported being in possession of a fake ID were more likely to be non-virgins than their peers without a fake ID, with fake ID owners reporting virginity rates of 31.7 percent while those who did not have a fake ID reported virginity rates of 67.7 percent.

The rate of virgins mostly increased as students reported taking more Advanced Placement exams, with 53 percent of students who took no AP tests identifying as virgins and 64.7 percent of students who took 10 AP exams identifying as virgins.

Mental Health

In matters of mental health, a slightly higher percentage of freshmen this year reported having sought mental health counseling. While 30.3 percent of the Class of 2025 said they sought counseling, 26.3 percent of the Class of 2024 said they sought mental health counseling. This uptick is on trend from last year as well, with more members of the Class of 2024 seeking mental health care compared to the Class of 2023.

The mental health impacts of the global pandemic and its effect on society may have influenced the Class of 2025 to seek mental health care. About 77.1 percent of respondents who said the pandemic contributed to a mental health decline sought mental health counseling, compared to 28.4 percent of respondents who said the pandemic did not adversely affect their mental health.

First-generation college students were less likely than their peers to have sought mental health counseling, at 74.5 percent to 65.7 percent, respectively. Genderqueer and nonbinary respondents were more likely to have sought counseling (63.2 percent) than women or men. Straight respondents were less likely than members of the BGLTQ community to have sought mental health care.

Alcohol and Drugs

The Class of 2025 saw a sizable increase in the number of respondents who said they had experience with alcohol. Only 40.3 of respondents said they had never had alcohol before, compared to 47.1 percent of respondents last year.

In line with last year, ecstasy and cocaine were the least popular drugs used by freshmen, with 99 percent and 99.1 percent of respondents reporting never having used these substances, respectively. Other unpopular drugs included LSD and Adderall, which 98.3 percent and 98.2 percent of respondents said they had not used, respectively.

Tobacco and marijuana use slightly increased compared to last year. Roughly 10.2 percent of respondents said they had tried tobacco, compared to 8 percent of respondents last year. Approximately 25.2 percent of freshmen reported having used marijuana, while only 22.2 percent of respondents reported having used the substance last year.

For the most part, students from families who made a combined income of over $500,000 reported alcohol or substance use at higher rates than their peers in lower income brackets. The starkest difference was in alcohol usage rates, with students in the $500,000 or higher income bracket reporting an alcohol usage rate of 79.9 percent and students in the under $40,000 income bracket reporting an alcohol usage rate of 45.6 percent.

Students from higher-income families were also more likely to have a fake ID than students from lower-income families.

Technology

Despite now residing in the motherland of Facebook, 24.6 percent of freshmen reported they did not have an account on the platform. Students favored other social media platforms, with most having accounts on Instagram (93.5 percent), YouTube (91.3 percent), and Snapchat (81.4 percent).

TikTok took up the majority of the Class of 2025’s attention, with 80.4 percent of freshmen who use the app spending more than 15 minutes a day on TikTok. Approximately 10.7 percent of TikTok users spent more than two hours on the platform per day, the highest of any other social media app.

Apple won over the Class of 2025, with 88.8 percent of respondents reporting owning an iPhone and 72 percent of respondents reporting owning a Mac.

Just over half of respondents — 53.4 percent — said they had a LinkedIn account. Freshmen who reported that they wanted to go into consulting, technology, and entrepreneurship had the highest rates of LinkedIn accounts, at 84.6 percent, 72.4 percent, and 76.6 percent, respectively.

—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at hannah.martinez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @meimeixu7.

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