Belief and Lifestyles at Harvard and Yale

By Caroline S. Engelmayer and William L. Wang

Though they’ll rep their schools in red and blue, respectively, Harvard and Yale’s incoming freshman classes both fall squarely on the left politically, nearly unanimous in their disapproval of President Donald Trump and largely liberal on a number of current political issues.

The Crimson and the Yale Daily News, the New Haven school’s student newspaper, polled the incoming freshman classes of their respective universities in August on a variety of topics. The YDN received responses from 1,143 students, a response rate of 72 percent. The Crimson received responses from 853 freshmen, representing roughly 50 percent of the class. Neither The Crimson nor the YDN adjusted for selection bias.

  • Only 1.7 percent of Yale and 1.5 percent of Harvard freshmen said their opinions of Trump were “strongly favorable”; 92.2 percent of Yalies and 88.0 percent of Harvardians said had a “somewhat” and or “strongly” unfavorable view of the president.
  • Asked their opinions on former President Barack Obama—a Harvard Law School alumnus—86.0 percent of Harvard and 86.8 percent of Yale respondents said they viewed him favorably.
  • A wide majority of students at both schools said they strongly support same-sex marriage (77.9 at Harvard and 79.4 percent at Yale) and the inclusion of transgender individuals in the military (65.0 and 70.6 percent at Harvard and Yale, respectively).
  • Just 3.6 percent of Harvard freshmen respondents and 3.3 percent of Yalies said they were strongly in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, a primary accomplishment of the Obama administration.
  • Similar minorities (3.5 percent of Harvard freshmen, 2.4 percent of Yale) said they strongly opposed cities—including Cambridge and New Haven—dubbing themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants.
  • Overall, in keeping with previous years, the majority of both freshman classes described themselves as very or somewhat liberal, with Yale’s Class of 2021 slightly moreso—68.8 percent of Harvard freshmen and 73.3 of Yalies said they fall on the left. Conversely, 11.8 percent of Harvard’s respondents said they are very or somewhat conservative, compared to 10.4 percent of Yale’s.

Similar proportions of each class are entering their freshman years having never had sex—60.9 percent of Yale respondents and 61.7 percent of Harvard respondents reported that they are virgins.

  • More Harvard (64.3 percent) than Yale (55.2 percent) respondents reported that they had drank alcohol at least once.
  • More Harvard than Yale respondents also said they had tried marijuana at least once: 27.7 percent of Harvard said they had used marijuana, now legal in Massachusetts, compared to 20.7 percent of Yale respondents.
  • More Yalies said they had used tobacco (11.7 percent, to Harvard’s 10.3 percent) and cocaine (1.4 percent to 1.2 percent).

Harvard’s newest students are optimistic about the outcome of their first Harvard-Yale game, on average estimating the final score of the New Haven-set matchup 48-20 in the Crimson’s favor.