Chart of the Day: Political Orientation Among College Freshmen

I don’t really have anything to say about this chart from the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. I just ran across it by accident while I was looking for something else. As late as 1996, there were about equal numbers of liberals and conservatives among incoming university freshmen, but liberals have steadily made gains since then. It’s not that there are fewer conservatives, though. It’s because there are fewer freshmen in the squishy middle.

But wait. Just as I was writing that, I noticed something: during the last four recessions, the number of freshman identifying as liberal went down.¹ That’s actually kind of interesting, isn’t it? Their numbers recover over the next few years, and the secular trend has been rising ever since the early 80s, but there’s definitely a pattern to the hills and valleys.

¹Last five, actually, but I’m not counting 1973 since liberals were already in a post-60s swoon.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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