University News

Poll: Majority of students plan to vote for Obama

Students surveyed on Paxson, abortion, cheating, romance

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
This article is part of the series Fall 2012 Student Poll

More than 65 percent of students plan to vote for President Obama in next week’s presidential election, according to a Herald poll conducted October 17-18. The poll also found the majority of respondents reporting no opinion on how President Christina Paxson is handling her job, not cheating in any University classes and sleeping between six and eight hours each night. Most respondents also said they wish they were in an exclusive relationship.

Upcoming election

More than 70 percent of respondents said they plan to vote in the Nov. 6 elections – 10 percent in Rhode Island and more than 60 percent in other states. Fifteen percent of respondents said they were ineligible to vote, while 5 percent said they did not plan on voting, and 6 percent said they were unsure.

Of those who planned to vote, over 80 percent of respondents supported Obama, while only 7.6 percent of respondents who plan to vote said they supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Varsity athletes were nearly four times more likely than respondents who were not on varsity teams to support Romney. Males were also more likely to support Romney than were females.

Students largely supported abortion rights, a key social issue this campaign season. Obama maintains a pro-choice stance on abortion, while Romney has stated he believes abortion should only be allowed in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is endangered.

About 42 percent of respondents said abortion should always be legal, while 25.6 percent said it should be legal in the first two trimesters, and 13.5 percent said it should be legal in the first trimester only. About 6 percent of respondents said abortion should only be legal in special cases like rape, while 3.3 percent said it should never be legal.

University issues

Almost 70 percent of respondents said they have no opinion on how Paxson is handling her job as University president. About 28 percent of respondents expressed approval, while slightly more than 2 percent said they disapprove.

Paxson, who was officially inaugurated this weekend, took office July 1. Earlier this month, she formed six committees that will help develop a strategic initiative for her time as president. The committees will focus on faculty retention, University infrastructure, financial aid, curricular innovation, online education and doctoral education, The Herald reported.

Paxson previously told The Herald she does not intend to dramatically change the University’s course but instead hopes to build on the work of former President Ruth Simmons. Last fall, nearly 70 percent of Herald poll respondents said they approved of Simmons.

Most students expressed support for the University’s continued expansion of online education. Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron announced in September that the University will begin offering massive online open courses through the course platform Coursera next year and will pilot online for-credit courses this summer.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Online Education conducted a survey last spring in which only 24 percent of student respondents said the University should offer for-credit online courses. But 36.8 percent of Herald poll respondents said the University should offer more for-credit online courses to Brown students. Nearly 43 percent of respondents said the University should offer more online open courses to the general public, while only 9 percent of respondents said the University should not offer any type of online courses.

Students are split on whether the University should consider race in admission decisions and when hiring professors.

Over the summer, the University submitted a brief in support of the University of Texas at Austin’s use of affirmative action in its admission process. Beverly Ledbetter, vice president and general counsel, and Jim Miller ’73, dean of admission, previously told The Herald affirmative action helps to create a diverse class in which students are exposed to a variety of perspectives.

But only 34.5 percent of respondents said they believe race should be considered in student admissions decisions. Nearly 33 percent of respondents said the University should instead consider other aspects of diversity, like socioeconomic status, in admissions decisions.

Only 35.1 percent of respondents said they believe race should influence hiring. Around 15 percent of respondents said other aspects of diversity should be considered when hiring professors.

Earlier this month, Lisa Cariaga-Lo, associate provost for academic development and diversity, told the Undergraduate Council of Students the University needs to develop a plan for hiring and retaining a more diverse group of professors.

Student life

Most students said they believe they are at least as happy as their peers. Forty-six percent said they think they are equally as happy, while 37.6 percent said they think they are happier. Only 13.5 percent of respondents said they believed they were less happy than their peers.

This summer, Newsweek and College Prowler ranked Brown fourth on their joint list of “Happiest Schools,” and the Princeton Review ranked it fourteenth on its list of colleges with the happiest students.

The majority of poll respondents – 60.2 percent – also said that they have never cheated on an assignment or test at Brown.

More than 100 Harvard students were investigated this semester for unauthorized collaboration on a take-home final exam, though some students told the New York Times the exam’s instructions were unclear.

The most common form of cheating respondents reported was working with friends when instructed otherwise, with 20.2 percent of respondents reporting that they had copied an assignment or parts of an assignment from a friend, and 17.7 percent reporting that they had collaborated on an assignment when instructed not to. About 6 percent of respondents said they had copied an assignment from a published source, 6.4 percent said they used notes for an assignment when they were instructed not to, and 4.3 percent reported cheating on an in-class test.

First-year students were significantly less likely to have cheated, with 78.7 percent of respondents reporting that they have never done something that they would consider cheating, compared to 53.7 percent of upperclassmen. Females were also less likely to say they have cheated than males were.

The majority of respondents ­- 65.5 percent – reported they sleep between six and eight hours each night. Around 25 percent of respondents said they sleep between four and six hours each night, while 7.1 percent said they sleep more than eight, and 0.9 percent said they get less than four hours of sleep. Varsity athletes were nearly twice as likely as other students to get more than eight hours of sleep.


Nearly half of all respondents said they were not in any kind of relationship. One quarter of respondents said they were in an exclusive relationship with one other person, while 7.8 percent said they were consistently hooking up with one other person, and 11.2 percen
t said they were casually hooking up with other people.

The majority of respondents – 56 percent – said they wished they were in an exclusive relationship, while 9.7 percent desired a consistent hook-up with one other person. Twelve percent of respondents said they did not want to be in any kind of romantic or sexual relationship.

About 31 percent of seniors said they were in an exclusive relationship, compared to 23.2 percent of underclassmen.

Females were slightly more likely to be in an exclusive relationship than males were, while males were almost twice as likely to engage in casual hookups with multiple people.

Female respondents were also slightly more likely than male respondents to say they wanted to be in an exclusive relationship or have a consistent hookup with one person. Over 12 percent of male respondents said they wanted to have consistent or casual hookups with multiple people, compared to less than 3 percent of female respondents.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brown was not ranked on a list of happiest schools compiled by the Princeton Review. In fact, the University ranked 14th on this year’s list. The Herald regrets the error.


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  1. 42% think abortion should be legal after the 2nd trimester. Brown U is known for indoctrination, but seriously: abortion after the 2nd trimester is not called abortion but MURDER. This is not a liberal position but common sense (some fetuses can survive at that point) and it is outlawed in ANY country I know of (yes, even countries with liberal and socialist governments). So please Brown students, get some damn perspective on your political and personal opinions….

  2. I wonder on what uninformed basis 42% of your students believe that abortion should be legal in any and all situations. Has any one of them seen a sonogram of an unborn child’s beating heart. All should consider the rights of an unborn child. Who speaks for them?
    I wonder if they believe that unborn kittens or dogs should be aborted. They probably say there is a difference. When you stop a baby from growing to full term you terminate a life. What if each of these students had a brother or sister aborted, how would they feel? Let them listen to women who have had abortions to hear the pain and regret they suffer. Hopefully, they would then understand how evil it is to end a life under the guise of a woman right to choose. It is a choice of life or death for a child.

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