Commentator 2018 Midterm Election Poll: A Detailed Analysis
Last week, The Commentator conducted a political poll of current Yeshiva University undergraduates in advance of the United States 2018 midterm elections. In this article, we present a detailed breakdown of our results.
Overall, the poll surveyed 334 undergraduate YU students, or 17 percent of the total undergraduate student body. We found that 64 percent of YU undergraduate students identify as Republicans or lean Republican, versus 28 percent who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. YU undergrads similarly tend to lean conservative, with 50 percent of students identifying themselves as somewhat or very conservative versus only 23 percent who are somewhat or very liberal/progressive. Another 22 percent identify as moderate.
133 respondents (40 percent) were Yeshiva College students, 59 (18 percent) were Syms-Men students, 122 (37 percent) were Stern College students and 19 (6 percent) were Syms-Women students. (Since so few Syms-Women students responded, our analysis will not devote specific attention to that school.)
Our poll found that Syms-Men students tend to be more Republican than the other colleges, followed by YC, with Stern being the most Democratic overall. 86 percent of Syms-Men, 65 percent of YC and 55 percent of Stern students identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Only 7 percent of Syms-Men students identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared to 28 percent of YC and 37 percent of Stern students. Overall, 71 percent of undergraduate men and 55 percent of undergraduate women identify as Republicans or lean Republican, while 21 percent of undergraduate men and 38 percent of undergraduate women identify as Democrats or lean Democratic.
Political views in general aligned similarly, with Syms-Men being the most conservative of the colleges, followed by YC, and then Stern. 69 percent of Syms-Men, 54 percent of YC and 39 percent of Stern students identify themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative, while only 3 percent of Syms-Men, 20 percent of YC, and 34 percent of Stern students are “somewhat” or “very” liberal/progressive.
The poll found very similar results for other questions. When asked which party they wanted to win control of Congress and whether they would vote for their district’s Republican or Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, a vast majority of Syms-Men students, followed by a smaller majority of YC students and followed by a less than 50 percent plurality of Stern students answered Republican.
37 percent of YC, 56 percent of Syms-Men and 29 percent of Stern students feel that the nation is on the right track, versus 41 percent of YC, 24 percent of Syms-Men and 45 percent of Stern students who feel that the nation is on the wrong track.
While sentiment on President Trump’s job performance and approval of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation reflected the conservative lean of the student body, views on Congress’s performance were more divided. 48 percent of students approve or strongly approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president, versus 31 percent who disapprove or strongly disapprove. Similarly, 49 percent of students approve or strongly approve of Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, versus 33 percent who disapprove or strongly disapprove. However, only 28 percent approve or strongly approve of the job Congress is doing; 27 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove, and another 26 percent neither approve nor disapprove.
Men and women differed regarding their support of Kavanaugh’s confirmation and approval of the job President Trump is doing. Despite most undergraduate women leaning Republican, more women disapproved than approved of the Kavanaugh confirmation. Overall, 61 percent of undergraduate men and 31 percent of undergraduate women either approve or strongly approve of the confirmation, while 24 percent of undergraduate men and 45 percent of undergraduate women either disapprove or strongly disapprove of the confirmation. Similarly, 57 percent of undergraduate men approve or strongly approve of President Trump, and 24 percent either disapprove or strongly disapprove; on the other hand, only 37 percent of undergraduate women approve of the president, compared to 40 percent who disapprove.
The poll indicated overall support of Congress to be low across all undergraduate colleges, with more men approving than disapproving, and more women disapproving than approving. Overall, 36 percent of undergraduate men and 16 percent of undergraduate women either approve or strongly approve of the job Congress is doing, while 27 percent of undergraduate men and 28 percent of undergraduate women either disapprove or strongly disapprove.
DIRECTION OF THE NATION
The poll also found that YU undergraduate students are generally split about the direction the nation is heading in, with 40 percent thinking the nation is heading on the wrong track and 37 percent thinking it is on the right track. Undergraduate men and women are similarly divided on this question, with 43 percent of undergraduate men and 28 percent of undergraduate women feeling that the nation is on the right track versus 36 percent of undergraduate men and 46 percent of undergraduate women thinking it is on the wrong track.
Overall, YU students consistently prioritize Israel significantly above other issues when voting. 74 percent of students consider Israel to be “very” or “extremely” important to them, relative to other issues, when considering who to vote for; only 24 percent say Israel is “somewhat” or “not at all” important relative to other issues. This breakdown remained consistent when comparing opinions across colleges, with at least 68 percent of students from each college considering Israel to be “very” or “extremely” important to them.
There was, however, a sharp partisan divide on this issue within the student body. Among students who identify as Republicans or lean Republican, 87 percent view Israel as “extremely” or “very” important; only 53 percent of those who identify as Democrats or who lean Democratic say the same.
Breaking down our results by year, we found that overall, younger undergraduate students at YU tend to be notably more conservative than older students. 77 percent of first year students identify as Republicans or lean Republican, compared to 65 percent of students in their second year, 58 percent of third years and only 44 percent of fourth years. Democrats and those leaning Democratic comprised 16 percent of first years, 26 percent of second years, 37 percent of third years and 44 percent of fourth years. Political leanings followed a similar pattern, with 66 percent of first year students identifying as “somewhat” or “very” conservative compared to 50 percent of second years, 42 percent of third years and 31 percent of fourth years. We found that support for Kavanaugh and President Trump followed a similar trend, with younger students tending to be more supportive of them than older students.
(Note that although only 10 percent of poll respondents were in their fourth year, the fact that older students were generally less conservative across the board certainly lends legitimacy to the existence of a trend that extends to students in their fourth year.)
We found a similar breakdown by age. Of respondents who identify as Republicans or who lean Republican, 30 percent were between 17 and 19 years old and 42 percent were between 21 and 23 years old. On the other hand, Democrats and those who lean Democratic tended to be older, with only 15 percent of respondents between 17 and 19 years old and almost 60 percent between 21 and 23 years old.
Before conducting our poll, we reached out to Professors Silke Aisenbrey and Daniel Kimmel, who advised us on methodology to get the most accurate and representative results possible. We reached out to students via email and social media, as well as through their professors, gathering a total of 400 interested undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, Sy Syms School of Business (Men) and Sy Syms School of Business (Women). We conducted a raffle with a $75 Amazon gift card first place prize to motivate respondents. Before opening the poll to these students, we reviewed all respondents with the Wilf Campus Office of Student Life to ensure that they were all current undergraduate students and to eliminate duplicates. 334 students completed our poll over the following three days.
Poll respondents were highly distributed among different majors. Of the 334 respondents, 17 percent are majoring in biology, and no more than 9 percent are majoring in any one other field. Respondents were distributed over more than 30 different majors.
Several confounding factors could have skewed our results in one direction. For example, Syms-Men constitutes 27 percent of total YU undergraduate students but only 18 percent of poll respondents. Because Syms-Men was underrepresented in our poll compared to YC and Stern and tended to be more conservative than the other colleges, it is reasonable to conclude that our results were, in general, less conservative than the true political views of YU as a whole. Additionally, because only 6 percent of our respondents attend Syms-Women (comprising 12 percent of the college) and 10 percent of our respondents are in their fourth year, we refrained from drawing conclusions from these data sets.