Political Survey at Stern Reveals an Actively Engaged, Diverse Campus

With the recent November midterm elections, campus has been abuzz with get-out-the-vote campaigns and political energy. NYU President Hamilton’s September email urged students to vote and raise turnout above 2016’s 47.8 percent. At Stern, each block of first-year students worked to drive voter engagement through the Motivote competition. And, of course, pundits in the always-active media speculated themselves into a fervor in the run-up to Election Day.

Blast in a couple of beers and a long day of presentations and it’s hard not to stumble into a political discussion.

When chatting among friends and classmates, it is easy to assume everyone at NYU is on the same political page. Campus Democrats take it for granted that everyone around them was pushing for a “blue wave” during the recent election. The campus sits in the bluest neighborhood on the bluest island in one of the bluest cities in the country. This is the campus, after all, that protested Henry Kissinger and successfully blocked several far-right speakers in recent years. Everyone agrees we’re “Stronger Together” here, right?

Hold on, a conservative classmate might interject. NYU Stern is an MBA program, an arena of the neo-conservatives. Students of business bedecked in dark suits vie for jobs in traditional careers at the most august banks and consulting firms. Several members of the Trump Administration are ex-Goldman Sachs. Bain co-founder and Republican Senator Mitt Romney proves that MBA + MBB = GOP.

Is either group correct about the political makeup of Stern’s student body? As an institution that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, it would be surprising if Stern were a political monolith. To find out if NYU purple is truly a blend of red and blue, the Stern Oppy created a survey and polled the student body about their political beliefs. 279 of our classmates from the full and part-time MBA classes of 2019 and 2020 answered questions on their political perspectives, their career ambitions and their feelings about the political environment at Stern.

 

THE PARTY LINE(S)

Most respondents expected Stern to lean left, and several explicitly described the environment as “super liberal.” One male student from the class of 2020 predicted the survey would be “homogenous, not very diverse.”

The results indeed confirm that the student body leans left, with 68 percent of respondents preferring to vote for the Democrats.

However, the landscape is definitively not homogenous. Over a quarter (26 percent) of the students either prefer the GOP (19 percent) or regularly swing to support them (7 percent). And a non-negligible contingent of our classmates vote for third party candidates (6 percent).

Additionally, the survey found that political party preferences vary across career ambitions. It is no accident that ex-bankers end up in Republican administrations — banking and finance boast the highest percentage of right-wing students, at 35 percent compared to consulting’s 20 percent.

Tech and marketing are both dominated by liberal survey-takers with over 80 percent each. Yet, it’s important to note that no group was completely homogenous. Even among those pursuing a career in the nonprofit space, 10 percent of students prefer a third party to the Democrats.

 

THE ENVIRONMENT

Regardless of political leanings, Sternies feel very engaged in politics — over two-thirds of the students rated themselves a seven or higher for political engagement on a 10-point scale.

Almost all of the survey respondents voted in the midterm elections. But not everyone agrees on Stern’s level of political engagement. One female Langone student commented that the school is “less engaged than expected.” Another woman from the class of 2020 “would love for us to be more vocal about championing causes and specific issues as a community.”

Which causes to champion would be up for debate. The top issues and concerns vary widely among the Stern community. Surveyed Democrats were most concerned about immigration while Republicans ranked the economy as their highest priority — but there was a lot of overlap.

Arguably the most important issue to surface in the survey was not a policy issue. Many students, especially those on the right, expressed frustration that they could not express their views at Stern. One Republican student said: “I feel like it’s almost unsafe to be an outspoken Republican, even if you aren’t a supporter of Trump (where I fall). I feel like outright Trump supporters are ostracized altogether. I rarely share my politics with people I don’t know well, fearing I’ll be branded as backwards in some way, which is somewhat shocking in an MBA program.”

He’s not alone. Over 25 other students (or nine percent) explicitly stated that they do not feel their views would be accepted by their classmates. Although the majority of these students lean right, several liberal students were among them as well.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that several students expressed admiration for the diversity of views they encounter at Stern. As one swing voter from the class of 2020 commented, the environment is “left-leaning but most people are open to opinions from all [and] supportive.” In the end though, there’s a clear top priority on student’s minds. As one respondent put it: “Honestly, we don’t talk about anything other than recruiting.”

 

STERN SPEAKS OUT

The survey revealed a lot about Sternies. Although the majority of us lean left, the student body is far from being consistently blue. Stern, indeed is a community consisting of all backgrounds and political leanings. All career tracks attract diverse viewpoints, and no group here is entirely homogeneous. Despite the fact that many people feel uncomfortable expressing their views, it is clear that there are many people here willing to listen. And rightly so.

One of the main selling points of Stern is IQ+EQ. A critical part of emotional intelligence is the willingness to listen to views that challenge your own and respond thoughtfully and with compassion.

We practice these ideals each day, whether in class discussions, late night study sessions, or alumni networking missions. We’re not red, blue or green when we gather during Stern Speaks to listen to and support our classmates’ stories, free of judgment or political agenda. We are all purple.


Methodology: The survey was distributed via email on Election Day to all students in the Stern MBA class of 2019 and 2020 as well as to all current part-time Langone students (total three target groups). These three mailing groups approximately made up a third of survey respondents each.

Respondents targeted a wide range of industries with consulting and banking representing 58 percent of the survey takers. Women comprised 38 percent of the respondents, approximately proportionate to the gender breakdown reported by the school. Based on NYU Stern Admissions’ data online, we conjecture that the survey has captured more than 10 percent of all students from the aforementioned groups.

We welcome any feedback regarding the survey and how it was distributed. Reach out to oppy@stern.nyu.edu for any comments.

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