Opinion: Clarion Call

Poll shows how college students were affected by events of Sept. 11

Clarion Call No. 141
About two out of three college students have changed their behavior as a result of the terrorist attacks of Septemeber 11, according to a poll released this week by the Independent Women’s Forum. Ninety-six percent of students polled report that the attacks had an impact on their lives.

The poll, conducted for the IWF by the Tarrance Group, was conducted through telephone interviews with 600 college students between the ages of 18 and 25. It has a confidence interval of plus or minus 4.1 percent.

Among the changes in behavior noted by the poll, the greatest by far was that students reported praying more; 32 percent of students said their praying had increased since Sept. 11. Other activities seeing large increases were volunteering (24 percent) and studying (22 percent). The poll also found students reported decreases in such activities as partying (13 percent reported a decrease), drinking (7 percent) and smoking (7 percent).

The top three most powerful emotions felt after Sept. 11 reported by the student polled were “Compassion for the victims” (receiving a mean rating of 8.4 on a ten-point scale), “Gratitude for your blessings” (7.6), and “Determination to protect our country” (6.2).

The most important values reported by the students polled were “Personal responsibility” and “Family” — 94 percent labeled these values either “Extremely Important” or “Very Important.” By way of comparison, “Patriotism” was considered extremely or very important by 63 percent of students; “Volunteering in the community,” by 58 percent; and “Religion,” by 50 percent.

“We looked beyond the obvious questions of how America’s college students feel about the war on terrorism and asked how terrorism has directly affected their lives,” said IWF President Nancy M. Pfotenhauer. “What we found is a generation of young people who, forced to grow up by the events of Sept. 11, have done just that.”

The poll also found that college student voters were much more likely to identify themselves as politically liberal than the rest of the U.S. electorate. While 33 percent of the U.S. electorate considers themselves liberal, 55 percent of college students do. Also, 61 percent of the U.S. electorate considers themselves conservatives, compared with only 39 percent of college students.

The latter results make the poll’s findings concerning college students’ opinions of George Bush more surprising. Seventy-five percent of students polled approved of the job Bush is doing as president (41 percent “strongly approve”), and 70 percent approved of Bush as a person (34 percent strongly approve). Sixty-four percent approved of Bush on both measures. Furthermore, 65 percent said they are glad Bush is president in light of Sept. 11, and only 18 percent said they wish Gore was president.

The poll is available on the IWF’s web site, www.iwf.org.