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Admissions, student activism, politics: The Herald’s Spring 2024 Poll

Poll finds discontent for Biden, University administration, admission policies

<p>The Herald polled 1,008 students across three different locations between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29.</p>

The Herald polled 1,008 students across three different locations between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29.

Each semester, The Herald conducts an undergraduate-wide poll to understand student opinions and campus lifestyle. This semester, The Herald surveyed 1,008 students between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29, inviting them to share their views on admission policies, student activism, substance use, politics and University administration.

Some of the notable findings of the poll are included below. You can explore the data further using our interactive website.


Earlier this month, the University announced that it would reinstate its standardized test requirement next year for first-year students applying for undergraduate admission. The Herald asked for students’ opinions regarding the test-optional policy before the change was announced.


About half of student respondents approved of the test-optional policy that applicants had enjoyed since 2020. Black and Latinx students rated the policy more favorably than white and Asian students. Those receiving financial aid and those who identify as first-generation students were also more likely to approve of the policy.

Previous studies have found that test-optional policies increased enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds. Others have found that reporting test scores benefits these same students.

In its findings, the University’s Ad Hoc Committee on Admissions Policies — the group that recommended the policy change — said that “strong testing, interpreted in context, may actually serve to demonstrate (applicants’) ability to succeed at Brown — and the lack of scores may mean that admissions officers hesitate to admit them.”

The committee also recommended further discussion regarding the preference for applicants with familial ties to the University. Among arguments for keeping the policy, the committee claimed that the increased diversity of alumni who were admitted under an affirmative action paradigm will increase the diversity of legacy applicants. The committee did not make a concrete recommendation, instead deferring any decisions until community input could be included.

No concrete plans by which to collect this input have been announced.

White students were more likely to have legacy status at Brown than any other racial group, with 17% of white respondents having one or more parents who attended Brown. And nearly a quarter of all students who do not receive financial aid reported having family members who had attended Brown.

In an interview with The Herald last month, President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 said that if the University “were concerned primarily with socioeconomic diversity, it would make sense to eliminate this practice.”

Student activism


The University has seen a proliferation of student activism relating to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, as well as a variety of other issues. The Herald asked students about their own involvement in demonstrations, as well as their opinions on activism and current events.

47% of students have not attended a rally during their time at Brown. Of those who have, the most popular issues that drive people to the Main Green are the war between Israel and Hamas, labor unionization and climate change.

As the University continues to grapple with its response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, the majority of students view its response unfavorably.

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More than two-thirds of students disapprove of Brown’s response — a sentiment that is more prevalent among upperclassmen.

The University has repeatedly emphasized the importance of free speech, right to protest and engagement with student demands. But many students have disapproved of the course the administration has charted as activists call for further protections for student organizing efforts.

One of most common demands is that the University divest its endowment from companies that “facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory,” as laid out in a “critical edition” of a 2020 report compiled by the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices.

Roughly two-thirds of students strongly or somewhat approved of Brown passing an official divestment proposal.

Paxson has previously refused to bring a divestment proposal to the Corporation, instead referring activists to the Advisory Committee on University Resource Management — the successor to ACCRIP. Student activists have so far refused to do so, saying that consideration by ACURM would impose “an untenable timeline given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza.”

In an interview with The Herald last month, Paxson said that she would direct ACURM to consider a divestment proposal on an expedited timeline, should it be submitted.

Administration approval

Paxson’s approval among respondents decreased since The Herald’s Fall 2023 Poll. The Fall Poll was conducted between Oct. 10 and Oct. 12, three days after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, which began on Oct. 7.

Around 31% of spring respondents strongly disapproved of Paxson, a sharp increase from the approximately 9% of fall respondents who strongly disapproved. The percentage of pollers who had a neutral or no opinion of Paxson decreased from 49% to 25% from fall to spring. Additionally, those who either strongly approve or somewhat approve of Paxson has decreased from around 26% to 17%.

Overall, Paxson’s current approval is at its lowest — with her disapproval at its highest — since spring 2020.

Poll data shows that older students are more likely to perceive the administration to be very unreceptive to student input — including around 32% of the senior population. Only about a tenth of first-years consider the administration to be very unreceptive.

Joe Biden’s potential second term

As the 2024 general presidential election approaches this November, American voters will likely be faced with a matchup they have seen before: Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump. Nationwide, polling has shown Biden losing support among young voters and voters of color — two constituencies that were key to his 2020 victory.

The Herald asked students whether they hoped that Biden would serve a second term as president.

Undergraduates seemed divided on whether the incumbent president should spend another four years in the White House. Over one-third of students hoped Biden would not run again, but a plurality of students were unsure of their opinion on a Biden second term. Only a quarter of students viewed this prospect favorably.

Asian and Black students were more likely to answer “unsure,” while white students viewed him the most favorably. Those who are not straight and those on financial aid also viewed a second term less favorably.

Biden’s age topped the list of considerations for those unsure of or opposed to a second term. Both Biden, 81, and Trump, 77, would be the oldest serving president in American history if elected. 

Among those same student groups, Biden’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war also weighed heavily in students’ considerations of their support for a second term.

Those who wanted to see Biden remain in the Oval Office largely cited his performance on issues related to climate change and reproductive rights. 

Substance use

Among poll respondents, around 75% of seniors, 64% of juniors, 61% of sophomores and 53% of first-years have used marijuana at least once in their life. 

A smaller portion of respondents — around 41% — have ever used nicotine.


The Herald’s semesterly poll was conducted between Feb. 27 and Feb. 29, 2024. All responses were analyzed and weighted by class year using R Version 4.3.2. Voluntary respondents were randomly sampled from the undergraduate student population at three polling locations around campus. The survey was completed by students on a Herald staff member’s device at these designated locations.

During the afternoon of the second day of polling, The Herald learned that a link to its poll — intended only for devices at designated polling locations — was shared outside to outside individuals shortly beforehand. The Herald promptly closed the poll and identified an 18-minute interval during which unauthorized responses may have been submitted. All responses during this period were excluded from analysis. The Herald used a rotating link to prevent further unauthorized access to the poll form.

Owen Dahlkamp

Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.

Kelvin Jiang

Kelvin Jiang is a section editor for University News and Science & Research at The Herald. Born in Illinois and raised in Palo Alto, CA, Kelvin is concentrating in math-computer science and applied math. He enjoys anything tech-related, being outdoors, and spending time with his cat.

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