Poll: Women more supportive of gays

by Amy Horst

University first-year men and women students have very different opinions and college expectations, but are more progressive than students at other public universities, according to a survey of first-year students released this week.

The annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program survey, in which the University participates every two years, polls more than 400,000 first-year students entering four-year colleges. The survey looks at students’ political and religious views, demographics and college and career expectations.

The survey measured the opinions of 4,423 University students who entered this year, and is used to study student satisfaction and identify issues that are important to them.

According to the survey, the number of incoming students who support same-sex marriage has risen 11 percent since 1997, a trend that University sociology professor Kathleen Hull said is in line with trends in the overall U.S. population.

But students’ opinions on gay marriage varied depending on their gender. Seventy-eight percent of women and 59 percent of men indicated same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and twice as many men as women agreed with prohibiting homosexual relations.

That gender gap is similar to national attitude trends, Hull said.

“There has been some work in psychology on this, and the basic theory is that men’s masculinity is threatened more by homosexuality, while women don’t interpret it as a threat to their own identity,” Hull said.

Despite lower support for same-sex marriage among male respondents, University first-year students overall are more supportive of same-sex marriage than the general public.

Sixty-nine percent of incoming students said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but a February survey by the Pew Research Center shows that approximately 28 percent of the U.S. public responded that way.

Men and women also had different expectations of what they would do in college.

More than twice as many women as men said they plan to volunteer while in college.

James Westin, president of the Habitat for Humanity’s University chapter, said this was true in his group.

“There are definitely quite a few more women,” Westin said. “For next year, both our president and vice president are women, and on our board of 12 people, only two are guys.”

Twice as many women as men said they would probably study abroad, which Lynn Anderson, associate director of the Learning Abroad Center, said is usually true.

In the last year, 843 University women and 447 men studied abroad, said Anderson. She said a researcher on the Crookston campus is beginning a study to find out why fewer men study abroad.

University first-year students also worked more during high school and said they would pay their own way through college more often than students at other public universities.

This year’s first-year students are also less supportive of affirmative action, are slightly more likely to be part of a minority group and smoked less than students surveyed in past years.