Before most people had sat down to dinner on November 6 it was laughably clear that the next president of the United States of America would be, as expected, Walter F. Mondale.
Mondale had a whopping 80 percent to 20 percent lead at Harvard area voting places, according to exit polling by The Crimson. This was an even greater margin of victory than previous polls of Harvard students had predicted.
But when dinnertime came along with a side order of television news programs from the real world, it had become clear that something was very amiss. The rest of America was choosing President Reagan over Mondale. The Harvard sampling had missed the mark.
Are Harvard students out of sync with the rest of America or is everyone else not in touch with reality?
"Students at Harvard voted against Ronald Reagan for the same reason people outside Harvard did--he's as phony as a three dollar bill," says Michael K. Goldman, a Massachusetts Democratic consultant. The question to ask is, "Why hasn't the rest of the country caught up with Harvard University?"
A White House spokesperson says she was not surprised by the events. "People vote their pocketbooks," she says, adding that people in academia, especially students, are sheltered from the monetary problems the rest of America faces.
"The economy is booming," explains Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, a noted voting specialist, adding that the vote for Ronald Reagan was an "economically self-interested reponse." "Students at Harvard are not yet faced with that kind of issue," he says.
Because many undergraduates vote in their hometowns, the best indicator of their support probably was an Institute of Politics poll of 4134 students, two-thirds of the college, in which Mondale was favored by 61 percent of the students to only 28.3 percent favoring Reagan. The poll results were almost exactly the opposite of the eventual outcome.
Thomas S. McGuire '85, who ran the poll, attributes the dichotomy to the relatively high number of minorities at Harvard and "a great dissatisfaction over Ronald Reagan's intellectual ability."
Harvard also found itself far left of campuses nationwide, according to an ABC/Lou Harris poll which showed more than 60 percent of college age students favoring Reagan. In fact 18-24 year olds were Reagan's largest supporters, according to exit polls the day of the election.
Campus life tends to "isolate a person," says John P. Loza '85, head of Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Reagan. He attributes the atypical leanings of most Harvard students to this isolation.
But Harvard students are not completely immune to the wave of conservatism spreading across the nation. McGuire points out that the more than one-quarter of Harvard students who supported the Republican candidate in this race shows a sharp rise in conservative sentiment on campus. In addition, freshmen were the greatest supporters of Reagan at Harvard. Only 56.9 percent of the freshman Class of '88 voted for Mondale in the IOP poll--compared to 61 percent in all four classes--with 35.6 percent supporting Reagan.
Despite a trend to the right at Harvard. McGuire says students at Harvard are "out of touch with the political world," adding. "There is a hell of a lot more to being a politician than to being smart."