Campus & Community

IOP survey: Strong student support for war

3 min read

College students strongly support U.S.-led air strikes and the use of ground troops in Afghanistan although support is approximately 10 percent lower than the general population, according to a new survey of undergraduates throughout the country conducted by the Institute of Politics (IOP). The survey also found that trust in government and civic engagement has risen significantly among college students during the past 18 months.

“This year’s survey of undergraduates is critical because the bulk of the soldiers called to serve are young people,” said David Pryor, director of the Institute of Politics. “College students are ready to serve their country, and more than two-thirds have already made some contribution toward the Sept. 11 relief efforts. Perhaps one silver lining in this national tragedy is that students are more civically engaged and less cynical toward the federal government than in previous years.”

Strong majority of college students favor military action

  • 79 percent of college students support U.S.-led air strikes, compared with 92 percent of the general population as reported by an ABC News survey on Oct. 8 and 9. 
  • 68 percent of college students favor the use of ground troops, compared with 80 percent of the general population as reported by a CNN survey on Oct. 19 and 20. 
  • 71 percent of male undergraduates would serve if the draft were reinstated and they were selected; 26 percent would seek other options. 

    Trust in the federal government and civic engagement have increased


  • 60 percent of undergraduates trust the federal government to do the right thing all or most of the time, compared with 36 percent in 2000. 
  • 75 percent of undergraduates trust the military to do the right thing, 69 percent trust the president, 62 percent trust Congress. 
  • 71 percent of students have donated blood, given money, or volunteered in relief efforts stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. 
  • 77 percent of students say politics is relevant to their lives as opposed to 68 percent last year. 
  • 69 percent have volunteered for community service, up from 60 percent in 2000. 
  • 68 percent of students named terrorism as the issue that concerned them the most; terrorism was not named as an issue in the 2000 survey.The IOP survey of 1,200 undergraduates across the country was conducted between Oct. 17 and 25, and carries a margin of error of +/-2.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

    This poll is part of an annual study of college students’ attitudes toward public service and government. It is unique because it is created and analyzed by a group Harvard college undergraduates, led by Erin Ashwell ’02 and Trevor Dryer ’02, with the assistance of John DellaVolpe, president of Boston-based opinion research firm SWR/DellaVolpe.