As political pundits mull over this fall’s presidential contest, Harvard freshmen have a clear favorite: Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden. The former vice president boasts the support of roughly 90.1 percent of the Class of 2024, compared to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 7.1 percent.
While they share kindred views on national politics, the Class of 2024 is less decisive on issues affecting Harvard’s campus. While 60.9 percent freshmen favor defunding police departments nationwide, only 29.3 percent said they would support defunding the Harvard University Police Department.
Asked about their opinion on Harvard’s decision to stop penalizing members of single-gender social groups, a plurality of respondents — 30.4 percent — reported having no opinion. Freshmen were similarly agnostic about freedom of speech: 30.5 percent of students reported having no opinion on the matter.
As the majority of freshmen settled into their dorms, roughly 76 percent took the time to respond to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. The anonymous survey asked them about topics ranging from political ideology to alcohol consumption to perspectives on the global coronavirus pandemic.
Of 1,420 students comprising the Class of 2024, 1,083 freshmen responded. The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the results. Due to rounding, reported statistics may not total exactly 100 percent.
The third installment of The Crimson’s survey of the Class of 2024 analyzes students’ religious and political beliefs, as well as their lifestyle choices, such as drug, alcohol, and technology use.
Though they enter college during an unconventional moment, the Class of 2024 does share one experience (or lack thereof) with previous classes — roughly 60 percent of them are virgins. Freshmen ranked in the top 5 percent of their graduating class or higher were more likely to be virgins than classmates who ranked in the 10th through 25th percentile of their graduating class. Those in the 2nd and 5th percentiles reported virginity rates of 64.1 percent and 50.7, respectively. On the other hand, those in 10th percentile and 25th percentile reported virginity rates of 40.8 percent and 42.1 percent respectively.
- A majority of non-virgin respondents, 54.7 percent, said they have only had one sexual partner. The number of freshmen who reported having two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine partners decreased with each additional partner, before increasing at the ten and more-than-ten partners mark.
- Recruited athletes were roughly 23 percentage points more likely than their peers to have had sex. About 61.3 percent of recruited athletes reported being non-virgins, compared to 37.6 percent of non-athletes.
- Freshmen who took a gap year reported broadening their worldview in more ways than one — 59.6 percent report having had sex compared to 37.4 percent of those who did not take a gap year.
- Freshmen who reported spending most of their time on Snapchat were less likely to be virgins, while those who reported spending most of their time on YouTube were more likely to be virgins.
Alcohol and Drugs
The incoming class had much to learn during College-mandated drug and alcohol modules this fall — only 52.9 percent of respondents reported consuming alcohol with any regularity, compared to 63.1 percent last year. Asked about other substances, this year’s freshmen also reported abstaining from drug use more than respondents in years past.
- Ecstasy and cocaine ousted LSD as the least popular drugs among surveyed freshmen, with 99.4 percent of freshmen reporting never having used either drug.
- Mushrooms also remained unpopular among freshmen, eschewed by 98.8 percent of respondents.
- Tobacco and marijuana usage among respondents trended slightly down from previous year. Eight percent reported experience with tobacco compared to 10.8 percent last year, and 22.2 percent reported experience with marijuana as compared to 23.8 percent last year.
- Though freshmen reported lower usage of both drugs and alcohol, they are more equipped than the class of 2023 to acquire these substances — 14 percent reported having fake IDs, compared to 9.5 percent of the Class of 2023.
- Students with family incomes of $500,000 and over were more likely to have a fake ID than those whose families are part of any other income bracket.
A slightly higher percentage of surveyed freshmen reported seeking mental health counseling than in previous years: 26.3 percent reported seeking counseling as compared to 23.5 percent from last year. Women were more likely to have sought counseling (31.3 percent) than their male counterparts (19.7 percent). Freshmen affiliated with the Democratic Party were 17.3 more percentage points likely to seek counseling than those affiliated with the Republican Party. Students who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning were more likely to have sought out counseling than their straight counterparts.
- When asked about their greatest source of pressure, 78.8 percent of surveyed freshmen pointed to their own expectations.
Sixty days out from the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, 88.9 percent of first years said they hold an unfavorable opinion of President Donald J. Trump, compared to 56 percent of voters nationwide. Trump’s dismal approval rate among surveyed students mirrors a shift in the political leaning of the freshman class more broadly. Nearly three-fourths of freshmen — 72.4 percent — identified as somewhat or very liberal, a marked increase from 64.6 percent in the Class of 2023.
- The fraction of students who did not identify as liberal decreased from previous years, with 20.3 percent indicating they are moderate, 6 percent indicating they are somewhat conservative, and 1.4 percent indicating they are very conservative.
- Female freshmen were more likely than male freshmen to lean left. Eighty-three percent of surveyed females identified as somewhat or very liberal, compared to just 60.1 percent of male respondents.
- This year’s survey saw the percentage of self-identified Republicans halve, dropping from 10.5 percent last year to 5.2 percent. The Democratic party, on the other hand, can claim the support of 57.4 percent of the class. Roughly 12.5 percent of students identified as Independent.
- Freshmen overwhelmingly supported recent national protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Nearly 88 percent expressed a somewhat or strongly favorable opinion on the protests, though 69.4 percent said they did not personally attend protests this summer.
Nearly all surveyed freshmen — 95.2 percent — stood behind Harvard and MIT’s July decision to sue the federal government over a proposed rule prohibiting international students taking online classes from staying in the United States. While the administration soon dropped that rule, federal visa restrictions ultimately prevented any international freshmen from coming to campus this fall.
- Proposals to divest the University’s endowment funds from fossil fuels found increased support among the Class of 2024 compared to previous cohorts. About 73 percent of respondents said they favor divestment, compared to 60.1 percent of survey-takers last year. Though calls for divestment from companies with ties to private prisons were less popular among freshmen in both the Class of 2023 and the Class of 2024, support for the move rose from 55.5 percent last year to 67.7 percent.
- Freshmen were split on proposals to defund the Harvard University Police Department with 36 percent opposed and 29.3 percent in favor. Looking beyond Harvard’s gates, however, 60.9 percent of respondents said they favor defunding city police departments.
- More than half of surveyed students — 52.6 percent — reported harboring concerns about sexual assault on campus. Students who expressed interest in joining final clubs, sororities, or fraternities were less likely to worry about experiencing sexual assault than students who expressed no interest in social organizations.
Despite moving into the birthplace of Facebook, freshmen continue to increasingly shy away from the social network. About 14.2 percent of incoming students said they do not have a Facebook account, compared to 12.7 percent of the Class of 2023 and only 10.7 percent of the Class of 2022.
- Having finished their senior year in a world largely shut down by COVID-19, the Class of 2024 spent less time on Tito’s and more time on TikTok. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they use the video platform everyday.
- Despite TikTok’s rising popularity, Instagram remains the most popular social media site among freshmen. About 93.5 percent of students said they have an Instagram account, and 25.5 percent reported spending at least an hour each day on the app.
- In the battle of iPhone versus Android, a clear winner emerged among the freshman class. Eight-eight percent of freshmen said they have an iPhone, while only 11.2 percent report using an Android.
- Surveyed freshmen come to Harvard prepared to network — or, at least to endorse one other’s proficiency in Microsoft Office. Roughly half of respondents reported having a LinkedIn account. Students from urban communities and non-athletes were the most likely to have accounts on the site.