The Public Interest

College generations—from the 1930’s to the 1960’s

Everett Carll Ladd Jr. & Seymour Martin Lipset

Fall 1971

THE upsurge of student activism and the radicalization of large segments of the undergraduate population since 1964 lead one to speculate about the future politics of today’s students. It is clear from opinion surveys that the most recent students and graduates are more liberal and radical than those of the 1950’s: The large majority identify themselves as Kennedy-McCarthy liberals, oppose the Vietnam War, favor egalitarianism and special help for black and other underprivileged minorities, etc., etc. The proportion describing themselves as “radicals” rose from 1965 on to the high point of 11 per cent in a Harris Poll in May 1970; it declined to between 4 and 7 per cent in Gallup and Harris surveys during the “ebbing wave” of 1970-71. Yet in response to a Gallup Poll in late 1970, 44 per cent of college students replied that violence is justified to bring about social change in the United States (compared to 14 per cent of the public at large), 49 per cent maintained that personal freedom and the right of dissent are being curbed in this country, and 37 per cent described themselves as “far left” or ‘left” politically as against 17 per cent who called themselves “right” and “far right.”

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