UCLA survey shows trends in political views, tuition and mental health concerns in Michigan students

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 5:08pm

The results of an annual survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles revealed the political leanings of the University of Michigan’s freshman class of 2016, as well as their views on personal mental health and therapy.

Amanda Karel, Student Life Assessment Leader for the University, shared what the University uses this survey for.

“This allows us to look at the data from a variety of angles to better understand the student experience,” Karel said. “It also allows us to look at the immediate group of incoming students to gain insight into what is going on with our students now and gives us baseline information about who our students are prior to the UM experience.”

The Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA conducted the survey and 137,456 full-time freshmen students across 184 U.S. colleges responded. The survey was situated against the "backdrop of a tumultuous presidential election," according to the press release

“Looking at the national data, UCLA attributed the decline in the number of students who characterized their political orientation as middle of the road to the political divisions intensified by the presidential election,” Karel said.

According to the survey, 34.1 percent of students claim they are middle-of-the-road politically, while 43.7 percent and 15.4 percent identify themselves as liberal and conservative, respectively. National data trends show that the amount of liberal-minded students is increasing, the amount of centrist students is decreasing and the amount of conservative-minded students is remaining the same.

LSA sophomore Brett Kellett also shared his opinions on the survey’s results, saying he wasn't surprised.

“Because we often refer to Michigan as a 'liberal university,' I do not consider that number to be shockingly high,” Kellett said. “I personally don't consider 'liberal' to be a dirty word, and I would be more encouraged if a greater number of my peers embraced the label.”

Gender differences on political issues also became apparent, as 20.8 percent of men who responded claimed to be conservative while only 12.9 percent of women responders claimed the same. Additionally, the survey showed women were more likely than men to believe global climate change should be a federal priority, the wealthy should be subject to tax increases and gun laws should be more strict, while men are more likely than women to believe in the abolishment of affirmative action in universities.

Another portion of the survey was dedicated to college affordability, which found it was of particular concern for students who identified themselves as female, Hispanic, African American or two or more races/ethnicities, or as a first generation college student.

Fifty-four percent of white students, 78 percent of Hispanic students, 71 percent of African American students, and 61 percent of Asian students expressed some level of concern over college affordability. Of those students who were a first generation college student, 76 percent expressed concern.

“I think that UM’s commitment to addressing these concerns is shown in the recently announced Go Blue Guarantee, that promises four years of free UM undergraduate tuition for in-state students with a family income of $65,000 and under beginning in January 2018,” Karel said.

Lastly, the survey sought to gain a better understanding of students’ self-assessed mental health and their opinions on therapy. When asked whether or not they would seek personal counseling, 12.2 percent of students claimed they would. This is slightly lower than the national average of 13.9 percent.

Out of all University students who took the survey, over 93 percent stated they had occasionally or frequently felt overwhelmed, 85 percent stated they had occasionally or frequently felt anxious and 46 percent stated they had occasionally or frequently felt depressed. Women were more likely to report feeling overwhelmed than men.

“I personally believe that counseling should be encouraged for everyone rather than stigmatized as something only for people with ‘problems,’ ” Kellett said. “Just as we go to the dentist or doctor to get a check up, so too should we all go to therapy to check up on our mental health.”