By Oliver Gladfelter
Because Denison is a residential campus, we spend the vast majority of four years in close proximity to one another, creating an abundance of opportunities to develop relationships that will provide support, cultivate learning, and promote growth. Yet relationships do not always entail admiration and fondness – some that we learn and grow the most from are ones of challenge, discomfort, and even animosity. And because Denison is a residential campus, we spend the vast majority of four years in close proximity to one another, creating an abundance of opportunities to really get on each other’s nerves.
In a survey taken by nearly a third of the student body, 127 asked students how they felt about various individuals and groups. To measure attitudes, we used feeling thermometers, where respondents give scores ranging from 0 (negative, cold feeling) to 100 (positive, warm feeling). So the higher the score, the more well-liked and positively viewed the subject is. The averages for all 15 groups/individuals of interest is as follows:
Of course, this doesn’t mean every student likes Bernie Sanders and dislikes elites. Averages only tell us one part of the story – the ratio of favorable ratings (above 50) to unfavorable ratings (below 50) gives us an idea of where student agree and disagree. For example, even though Bernie Sanders averaged a score of over 60, nearly a third of the student body gave him an unfavorable rating, making him fairly contentious. The figure below orders each group and individual from agreeable to polarizing.
So Denisonians are decisively united by our distaste of white supremacists and our fondness of President Weinberg. Meanwhile, discussing Denison Greeks and Hillary Clinton on campus is likely to cause some arguments. Clinton earns the title of the most contentious person to bring up, receiving favorable views from 49.4% of students and unfavorable views from 47% – a division far more polarized than any other individual or group (although Denison Greeks were a close second, with a 49.7 : 43.8 approval to disapproval split).
And where there’s disagreement, there’s partisanship. Take a look at the following ridgeline plot to see the distribution of Denison Democrats and Republicans for each (notable) feeling thermometer (it’s sorted so that the group the Democrats like the most is on top).
Take Donald Trump as a key example. Obviously Democrats view Trump unfavorably – and with more decisiveness and unity than either partisan group has for any other feeling thermometer – while Republicans are more varied on their opinion of him. But Democrats and Republicans differ in more than just their attitudes about political figures; in fact, their opinions are distinguishably different in nearly every case – even on varsity athletes and greeks. The only case where their views converge is President Weinberg, who received overwhelmingly favorable scores from both partisan groups. Feelings also didn’t much differ between partisans for white supremacists, DCGA senators, and VP Laurel Kennedy (not included in figure).
It’s no secret both our country and our campus are politically polarized. Yet in these feeling thermometers there may be a solution – as others are increasingly segregating into like-minded groups, it’s vital for Denison students to resist this and interact with a diversity of opinions. If we discuss various groups and figures exclusively with peers who agree with us, we’re isolating ourselves from those who can help us better understand dissenting perspectives. While the campus leans far to the left, there were few groups or figures that we overwhelmingly agreed on. Take advantage of that and seek out the students who disagree with you on DCGA, greek life, even Bernie Sanders – I guarantee there are plenty of options.
Oliver Gladfelter is a huge advocate of procrastination and spends most of his time finding new ways to waste time. He also studies political science on the side.
1. Scores of 50 are omitted, so percentages do not total 100%.
2. Republicans view varsity athletes and greeks so much more favorably than Democrats because they participate in these activities on campus at rates significantly higher than Democrats (p-value < .05). Democrats still have higher overall numbers present in both groups simply because there are a larger amount of students on campus identifying as Democrat, but a higher proportion of Republicans are varsity athletes or involved in greek life.