By: Yosef Lemel  | 

YU Student Body Overwhelmingly Picks Trump Over Biden, Survey Finds: An Analysis

Editor’s Note: For the questions dealing with approval ratings and other similar questions, a five-point scale was used, allowing the inclusion of a neutral option and options such as “very likely” or “strongly approve” when applicable. The findings of this survey may radically vary from the results of The Commentator’s 2016 election poll due to significant changes in our survey methodology since then. A more accurate point of comparison, when relevant, would be our 2018 midterm election poll.

The Commentator conducted a survey from Oct. 20 to 26 on the political leanings of the Yeshiva University undergraduate student body. The following article details the results and trends found in the survey. 

Introduction

The survey polled 279 students, representing 14% of the undergraduate student body.

110 of the respondents (39%) are Yeshiva College (YC) students, 108 (39%) are Stern College for Women (SCW) students, 50 (18%) are male Sy Syms School of Business (Syms-Men) students, 10 (4%) are female Sy Syms School of Business (Syms-Women) students and 1 (.4%) is a Katz School student. Overall, 160 (57%) respondents are men while 119 (43%) are women.

Of the respondents, 72 (26%), are first-year students, 104 (37%) are second-year students, 83 (30%) are third-year students and 20 (7%) are in their fourth year or more. 

93% of respondents indicated that they are registered to vote and 90% say they are likely to vote in the coming election. 

Due to their low sample sizes, specific conclusions and extrapolations will not be derived from the results of groups such as Syms-Women, Katz School, and fourth-year students.

Political Affiliations 

47% of respondents consider themselves Republicans, 15% as Democrats and 26% as Independents. When asked to describe their political ideologies, 60% identified with the conservative movement, 18% considered themselves to be liberal and 17% identified as centrists. 

Continuing a trend observed during the midterm election season, Syms-Men is the most Republican-leaning undergraduate program in the university with 71% identifying as Republicans, 4% as Democrats and 13% as Independents. 83% of Syms-Men consider themselves conservative, 15% as centrist while only 2% identify as liberal. Regarding YC, 47% identify as Republican, 8% as Democrat and 31% as Independent; 64% are conservative, 16% are centrist and 11% are liberal. At SCW, political affiliation is more evenly balanced, with 37% identifying as Republicans, 26% as Democrats and 27% as Independents. 46% of SCW students are conservative, 18% are centrist and 32% are liberal. 

A previous trend in 2018 that found older students tending to lean more liberal did not hold true for this survey. In fact, third-year students were the most conservative in the student body. 59% of first-year, 57% of second-year and 68% of third-year students identify as conservatives while 11% of first-year, 19% of second-year and 16% of third-year students identify as liberal. 

Overall, 68% of respondents believe that the YU student body, in general, leans Republican while only 12% believe it leans Democrat. 20% were unsure of which political direction the student body leans.

The Election

If the presidential election were held today, 60% of students would vote to re-elect Donald J. Trump, 23% would vote for Joseph R. Biden, 5% would vote for a different candidate and 12% were undecided. 55% of women and 64% of men indicated that they support Trump while 30% of women and 18% of men said they would vote for Biden.

When it came to who students believe would win, the results were more evenly split, with 29% believing Trump will win,30% believing Biden will win and 41% stating that they were unsure as to who will win the election. When broken down by party affiliation 36% of Republican, 5% of Democrats and 29% of Independents said they think Trump will win, whereas 27% of Republicans, 45% of Democrats and 29% of Independents think that Biden will win.

Overall, 34% of respondents think that the Democratic Party will retain control of the House of Representatives, while 22% believe the Republican Party will gain control; 44% stated they were unsure about the outcome. The opposite was true regarding the Senate: 42% believe the Republicans will retain control of the chamber, 16% picked the Democrats to flip the Senate and 43% stated they were unsure of the outcome. 

Job Approval 

54% of students polled approve of the overall job performance of the Trump administration, 13% neither approve nor disapprove and 30% disapprove. Trump’s approval rating jumps to 82% among Republicans, sinks to 5% among Democrats and sits at 39% among Independents. 

More of the respondents disapproved than approved of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, 33% approve, 17% neither approve nor disapprove and 45% disapprove of the administration’s response to the pandemic. However, 59% of respondents say they think a Biden administration would have handled the pandemic worse.

Trump’s economic and foreign policies, in contrast, received large support from respondents. 68% approve, 9% neither approve nor disapprove, and 14% disapprove of Trump’s economic policies over the past four years. 70% of respondents believe that Biden’s economic policies, if implemented, would not have been better than Trump’s. Regarding Trump’s foreign policies, 70% indicated approval, 10% neither approved nor disapproved and 15% disapproved. When asked whether Biden’s foreign policies would have been better than Trump’s, 70% responded in the negative. 

Overall, Republicans, Democrats and Independents believe this country is heading in the wrong direction. A mere 18% of respondents say this country is headed in the right direction, while 62% say it’s on the wrong track and 20% were unsure. 56% of Republicans, 90% of Democrats and 63% of Independents say America is on the wrong track. 

The Issues 

Students were asked whether they approve of Amy Coney Barrett being appointed to the Supreme Court. (The survey closed before Barrett was confirmed by the Senate.) 56% indicated their approval, 18% disapproved, 17% neither approved nor disapproved and 9% were unsure. 

Overwhelmingly, respondents stated that they would prefer to not add justices to the Supreme Court if their preferred party wins the White House and the Senate; 23% support court-packing, 68% oppose it and 9% were unsure. Of Democrats, 20% would support packing the court. 

A plurality of students would like to see the Electoral College system remain in place. 49% support the Electoral College system, 26% would like to see it replaced with a popular vote system, 3% preferred another system and 21% were unsure. When broken down by party, 70% of Republicans, 15% of Democrats and 39% of Independents would prefer to keep the Electoral College system, while 9% of Republicans, 60% of Democrats and 35% of Independents would like to see the implementation of a popular vote system. 

When students were asked whether they “approve or disapprove of the Black Lives Matter movement,” 50% noted their disapproval, 29% indicated their approval and 16% neither approved nor disapproved of the movement. 73% of Republicans, 3% of Democrats and 36% of Independents disapprove of the movement, while 10% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats and 35% of Independents approve of it. (What exactly the “movement” represents was left up to the respondent to decide.)

What almost all students agreed upon was the idea that Israel is an important factor when considering who to vote for. 92% stated that it was an important factor (of that number, 64% indicated it was very important), while only 7% said it was not an important factor. 95% of Republicans, 95% of Independents and 70% of Democrats indicated that a candidate’s policies regarding Israel is an important factor in their decision. 

Methodology 

The methodology for this survey mostly followed that of previous surveys The Commentator has conducted for the past two years, including the 2018 Commentator Midterm Election Poll. We first collected the names and emails of 305 students through the Wilfevents and Berenevents email service for YU undergraduate students. We sent each student an individualized copy of the survey via SurveyMonkey. Of the 305 students who received a survey, 274 responded in full, and five partially answered the survey. Students were incentivized to participate through a raffle for a $25 Amazon gift card, among other prizes. All responses were completely anonymous. 

Unlike previous surveys, we were not able to advertise the survey using posters in buildings, such as the batei midrash and the libraries; rather, we relied purely on emails to spread the word. While we realize that this may have contributed to sampling bias — in that only people who regularly check their emails, who may have different political leanings than the overall YU population, would respond — the only available platform available for us to accurately survey YU undergraduates was via email. 

A factor that may have contributed to an imbalance in the survey results was the relatively low percentage of Syms-Men and high percentage of YC students who responded, as was the case in previous surveys. Only 18% of respondents are in Syms-Men, even though it is the second-largest undergraduate program in the university, comprising 26% (517 students) of the undergraduate student body. In contrast, YC students comprised 39% of our survey’s respondents while comprising 25% (512 students) of the student body. 

The Commentator received the enrollment numbers referred to in this article from YU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

Photo Caption: Students overwhelmingly picked Trump as their preferred choice for president over Biden. 
Photo Credit: SurveyMonkey