Spotlight: Survey of first-year students

p. Forgive Notre Dame students for being politically correct. That is, for being both political and correct .p. In an annual survey of college freshmen, 51 percent of Notre Dame’s first-year students consider it essential or very important to be politically aware, some 17 points higher than the national average. At the same time, these same students were correct most of the time in high school; almost 75 percent carried an A or A+ average.p. For both Notre Dame students and their national peers, interest in politics was up for a third consecutive year.p. Conducted by the American Council on Education and the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, the survey is designed to profile the political and social views of the nation’s college freshmen. This year’s survey?the 38th annual?is based on the responses of 276,449 first-year students at 413 of the nation’s four-year institutions.p. In this 2004 election year, conservative candidates are likely to draw the votes of most Notre Dame first-year students. Some 38 percent identify themselves as politically conservative and about 19 percent liberal, compared with 21 percent and 24 percent nationally.p. Notre Dame students’ political awareness is likely the root of an empowered optimism as reflected in their belief in the ability of one person to effect change. Fewer than 19 percent agreed that “an individual can do little to bring about changes in society,” compared with 28 percent nationally.p. A tendency toward service was high among Notre Dame students, with some 88 percent reporting participation in some type of volunteer work during their last year in high school, compared with about 70 percent nationally.p. Most Notre Dame students are exactly where they want to be, with 83 percent identifying Notre Dame as their first choice in colleges. Nationally, about 68 percent report the same level of satisfaction.p. Among other noteworthy observations drawn from the survey:p. • Notre Dame’s first-year students are confident, rating themselves significantly higher than their peers in the areas of academic ability, persistence and leadership skills.p. • Religious observance among Notre Dame’s freshmen is higher than that of their peers. Nearly 97 percent attended a religious service within the past year, some 20 points higher than the national average.p. • About one-quarter of Notre Dame’s class of 2007 believes that marijuana should be legalized, compared to almost 39 percent of their national counterparts.p. • Some 54 percent of Notre Dame freshmen are opposed to the death penalty, while about 33 percent of their peers nationally feel it should be abolished.p. • Almost half of Notre Dame’s first-year students agree that same-sex couples “should have the right to legal marital status,” while nationally, some 60 percent of college freshmen agree.

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