Published October 18, 1986
(NACS)—the nation’s college students are more conservative in their attitudes about a wide range of subjects than the generation which preceded them, according to one of the most penetrating surveys of college student attitudes ever undertaken.
Students Watch ’86, conducted by Simmon Market Research Bureau for the College Stores Research & Educational Foundation, provided for the first time an in-depth look at a separate and important force in America’s racial/political/economic picture—12.5 million students with over $20 billion in discretionary annual spending.
Based on responses from 349 randomly selected students who answered a 29-page questionnaire, this picture of general attitudes emerged from America’s college and university campuses:
Fifty-six percent think sex before marriage is always or sometimes wrong, while 95 percent believe sex outside marriage is always or sometimes wrong, and 69 percent prefer postponing marriage until they have achieved other goals. Seventy percent believe that cigarettes are harmful and 48 percent indicate they would not date someone who smokes.
Eighty-four percent think cocaine is harmful and 62 percent believe marijuana use is also unwise, but only 10 percent feel that way about alcohol. Seventy-three percent favor the death penalty, and 69.9 percent think abortion should be illegal.
Respondents expressed their political views and alignment; 37 percent considered themselves republicans, 31 percent independents, and only 28 percent listed themselves as democrats.
Doctors, scientists, and professors are highly respected by students. But reporters, government workers, and politicians had better mind their “public image,” because 60 percent, 47 percent, and 70 percent, respectively of students had little or no trust in these professions.
Sixty-nine percent of the students said religion was important to varying degrees in their lives, and 26 percent said they attend religious services at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month.
The survey also provided an insight into financial habits of students, including the fact that 48 percent live off campus, and in effect run households.
Fifty percent of the respondents get more than half of their discretionary income from their own earnings, and 58 percent of those said they earned over $2,000 last year, while 25 percent earned over $5,000.
When it comes to discretionary spending, 61 percent said they have $100 per month or more to spend. Nineteen percent in that group have between $150-259 and another 19 percent spend $250 or more.
Largest dollar expenditures by students during the school year were at the college store, with a median of $248.61.
Ninety-six percent said they spent more money on clothing during the past school year than on any other category—with a median expenditure of $187.40. Four percent of all discretionary income was spent on health and beauty aids.
In other survey highlights, 56 percent have and use bank credit cards, 41 percent have borrowed money to attend college, and 86 percent have savings accounts. College students are owners of high-priced items as well: Sixteen percent have a new car, 39 percent purchased a used car; 78 percent own a television set, 66 percent a stereo system; 36 percent a 35mm camera and 17 percent a computer.