Freshmen: Left, Right-Mostly Middle
Harvard freshmen, considered by many Yard proctors the most conservative in several years, come out clearly left of center in a recent CRIMSON sox poll.
Sixty percent of the 460 freshmen respondents listed their political position as either liberal or radical while only nine per cent considered themselves conservative or very conservative.
A vast majority of the class of '73 shied away from the political poles. Alumni looking for a resurgence of conservatism can take some comfort in what appears to be a hard core of conservative freshmen, numbering approximately five per cent of the class.
And radicals in search of freshman support this Spring will find 16 per cent of the class characterizing them-selves as radicals.
One out of five freshmen answered, however, that they believe social reform in America can only be achieved through violence.
The results come from a poll distributed to the Class of '73 two weeks ago and designed to elicit freshman views on Harvard and on general political issues. Thirty-eight per cent of the class responded.
A surprising 21 per cent of the freshmen are already dissatisfied with the Harvard they expected to find here last Fall Fifty-five per cent thought President Pusey should resign before the mandatory retirement age.
Despite their willingness to assign themselves political labels, more than half of the freshmen were reluctant to affiliate with any political party. Only 44 per cent said they would identify themselves as members of a political party it they were to register today and vote in a national election.
An overwhelming consensus, 422 out of the 460 polled, favored social reform. It was the highest percentage of agreement on any question in this poll. What is important is that 81 per cent of the 422 thought America should be reformed either "radically" or "substantially."
The 23 per cent who answered that "adequate social reform" cannot "be achieved in the U. S. without the use of violence" reflect a hard core of militant radicalism. Those who answered that violence must be used to achieve adequate social reform preferred the NLF 3 to 1 over the Thicu-Ky regime even though the class as a whole preferred a Thicu-Ky victory.
Some of those who believed that violence would have to be used to achieve adequate social reform apparently were non-radicals. Notably, 21 per cent of those who thought that violence would have to be used also thought that Pusey should not retire and preferred a Thicu-Ky victory in Vietnam.
There was an overwhelming (85 per cent) response from the sample in favor of a more equal distribution of wealth in America, although only nine per cent favored an absolutely equal distribution. This shows the class's acceptance of liberal but not radical goals.
A substantial majority (74 per cent) of the class rated Nixon's handling of the Presidency unfavorably, as either "mediocre" (40 per cent) or "bad" (34 per cent). This unfavorable rating of Nixon, at a time when national opinion polls show him to be popular among the country at large, illustrates the class's basic liberalism. This is especially apparent when one considers the next question (#13) in which 73 per cent consider Nixon "too conservative" while only 14 per cent call him "just about right" and only 2 per cent say he is "too liberal."
There was a clearly favorable attitude toward the Supreme Court's recent civil rights and civil liberties decisions, even though there was a small contingent of disapproval. One student who said Nixon, politically, is "just about right," said the Supreme Court "carried the crusade for political liberties too far to the left."
A self-characterized liberal said the Supreme Court "gets carried away a little at times, but is going in the right direction. They need to reconsider the easy life criminals can have on 'technicalities.'"
A student who characterized his political views as radical said, "The decisions were needed for a long time, but don't do much good because they are not uniformly enforced. In most cases, they're not enforced at all. Atleast now we have a bill of rights in name, if not in deed."
By a margin of almost 4 to 1, the freshmen rejected the theory of American cold war foreign policy that the "U.S. should intervene militarily to prevent Communists from taking over an established non-Communist government." However, in the next question a plurality of 50 per cent advocated some sort of non-military intervention to prevent Communists from taking over an established non-Communist government.
Judged together, the two questions show that although many freshmen, like many liberals today, reject military intervention against Communism in a foreign country, the majority does not share the radical viewpoint that the U.S. should not intervene in any way against Communism abroad.
On the subject of Vietnam, the class again shows its non-radicalism with a plurality (43 per cent) saying they would prefer a Thieu-Ky victory if they "had to choose" between it and the NLF. However, 38 per cent said that they favor an NLF victory, which shows that the class certainly is not conservative.
The general liberalism of the class is also reflected in the series of questions on pro-and anti-war marches last fall. The majority (58 per cent) of the class participated in the October moratorium march to the Boston Common and a significant minority (22 per cent) traveled to Washington to march against the war in November. Although few freshmen (4 per cent) participated in any pro-war march. it seems that they represent a very active pro-war minority associated with the Harvard chapter of the YAF which was formed by freshmen this year.
( Tomorrow: The freshman views of Harvard politics. )