Brown Daily Herald (Brown U.)
(U-WIRE) PROVIDENCE, R.I. ? College students in general strongly support the U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan, according to a recent survey by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, but students across the country are involved in peace movements on their campuses.
Seventy-nine percent of college students nationwide support U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan and nearly two thirds back the use of U.S. ground troops in the war, according to the poll of 1,200 randomly selected undergraduates across the country.
Seventy-one percent of male undergraduates said they would serve if the draft were reinstated and they were selected, while 26 percent said they would seek other options.
“This year’s survey of undergraduates is critical because the bulk of the soldiers called to serve are young people,” said former Arkansas Sen. David Pryor, director of the Institute of Politics, in a press release.
The students polled between Oct. 17 and Oct. 25 also expressed strong approval of the federal government. Sixty percent of undergraduates said they trust the government to “do the right thing,” compared to 36 percent in 2000. Seventy-five percent trust the military, while 69 percent trust the president and 62 percent trust Congress.
The survey indicated a low political involvement among students, as 72 percent said they did not participate in any government, political or issues-oriented organization.
However, 71 percent of the students said they have donated blood, given money or volunteered in relief efforts stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The poll, part of an annual study of college students’ attitudes toward public service and government, had a 2.8 percent margin of error.
“The fact that student support for the war is so high is significant,” said Erin Ashwell, a Harvard senior who co-authored the report and developed the questions with the Boston-based opinion research firm SWR/DellaVolpe.
The sample is reflective of the general population of students at four-year colleges across the country, she said.
Some students who are critical of the war said the results of the survey did not reflect the sentiments of students on their campuses.
Mary Jirmanus, a Harvard freshman and member of the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice, said she thinks a larger number of Harvard students are apathetic about the war effort.
“I would say there are a lot more people who are opposed to the use of military intervention than are doing stuff about it,” she said. “My friends would say they don’t think what we are doing is right and would bring up the same arguments as I would, but they won’t go out and actually do anything about it.”
Jirmanus said HIPJ’s first rally attracted 800 students and the group has approximately 60 to 70 are active organizers and participants.
Cornell University senior Dana Brown said she was surprised by the survey’s results. She said the opinions of Cornell students on the issue of war are as diverse as the student body.
As a coordinator of Students for Peaceful Justice, a group fearful of war and organized as a response to Sept. 11, she said the group has a large number of participants, many of whom are “not the usual suspects” one would expect in the peace movement.
“I’ve been impressed with how large the numbers are that are opposed to war,” Brown said. “Numerous students are wearing the white ribbons we handed out or signs that say ‘Stop the injustice.'”
At Wesleyan University a large number of students are involved in Peaceful Justice, a coalition for justice without war.
“I imagine if a survey were done here, the number of Wesleyan students in support of the war would be a lot lower,” said Sarah Norr, a Wesleyan junior.
Many students have been involved in peace work, Norr said. “I think we are sort of an unusual campus. We’ve had up to 500 or 600 students turn out at peace rallies,” she said.
She said she thinks the survey indicates that “the media has only told one side of the story. They focused basically on war or doing nothing.”
“There hasn’t been a public expression of alternatives to war. People are upset about what happened and of course they want to do something about it. That’s why we need people to talk about a constructive way to solve it,” Norr said.
The Peaceful Justice Network is organized by Wesleyan students connects with groups at 93 East Coast universities, 32 in the West, and 37 schools in the Midwest.
Michael Littenberg-Brown, coordinator at Wesleyan of Not Another Victim Anywhere, a coalition of students opposed to war, said he was not surprised with the survey results.
“I understand the survey, but I’m not resigning myself that students aren’t going to change their minds,” he said. That is why NAVA’s focus is on educating students who are not in touch with the peace movement, he said.