Current-issues survey reveals surprising results

by Greg Corradini

University students who support the Iraq war attend Gophers football games, according to a study conducted by a sociology class at the University.

For the second-consecutive year, professor Ronald Anderson’s class, Sociological Research Methods (Soc 3801), picked topics, refined questions and analyzed data for its current-issues survey.

This year, Anderson said, he is surprised the most by the correlation found between students who attended Gophers football games and who believe the Iraq war is justified.

According to the survey, 47 percent of students who attended at least five football games this year said the Iraq war was justified. Twenty-two percent of students who did not attend any games this year said the Iraq war was justified.

The results suggest that students who go to the football games tend be more politically conservative, Anderson said.

The class conducted the Web survey from March 10 – April 6. The results include 810 responses from University students, excluding nondegree students and those unlisted in the University directory.

Sociological surveys are much work but provide students with a better learning experience in the class, Anderson said.

“A lot of people just teach out of the book. I believe it should be hands-on and active learning,” said Anderson, who has been teaching the class at the University for 37 years.

Fortunata Songora, a teaching assistant for the class, said she was surprised to find the class opinions about the smoking ban were not representative of the University’s student population.

In her lab sections, Songora said, many students were against the smoking ban. Many survey questions they wrote dealt with the issue, she said.

“The findings show that a majority of the students support the smoking ban,” she said. “That was a bit shocking to me.”

According to the survey, 17 percent of the students surveyed said they smoke cigarettes, and approximately half of those smokers said they only occasionally smoke.

Graduate student Seungbum Lee said that although he thinks surveys have a useful purpose, he knows they are not 100 percent accurate.

Lee has conducted surveys about sports fans’ loyalties to their favorite teams, he said.

From his experience, Lee said, data can be biased and skewed, because respondents sometimes don’t take the survey seriously.

They might just fill out the questions without reading them, he said, or might not answer truthfully.

“That’s the kind of limitations that surveys have,” he said. “But they are the only thing that researchers have to judge opinions on.”

Anderson said another interesting finding was how many people get parking tickets on campus.

The survey found 23 percent of students received at least one parking ticket since the beginning of the calendar year.

According to the survey, the high cost of parking on campus is one reason for the high number of parking tickets.

Fifty-one percent of students said they either drive or carpool to school. Of those students, 50 percent spend more than $10 per week on parking fees.

Junior Kayla Woodward, who helped design the parking fees question, said she didn’t find the question’s result unusual because she knows many people drive to school.

On Wednesdays, Woodward said, she usually drives to school from Chaska, Minn., and parks in a ramp for approximately $11. Other times, she said, she takes the SouthWest Metro Transit bus from Eden Prairie, Minn.

According to the survey, 27 percent of University students take the bus to school.

Senior Michelle N. Mills said that after taking enough sociology courses, she now has a different way to explain and look at normal, everyday experiences.

“(Sociology) is interesting to me, because it is a science that you are living your daily life within,” she said.

During its creation process, Mills said, reviewing the survey and refining overlapping questions was “insightful.”

But the most enjoyable part was putting together a survey her peers took online, she said.