How politically divided are today’s college students?

Written by and

Protests are not new to college life, but violent, politically charged outbursts have erupted in the last few months on campuses across the country. At UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Middlebury protests erupted when conservative speakers were booked for events at the institutions. Historically, the college campus is meant to be a place where ideas come together and drive conversations, but in today’s divided America, that open discourse has been changing. 

Ahead of A Campus Divided, we reached out to local students to get their opinions on politics, friendships, and the tensions that can stem from both.

Here is what 10 local students had to say:

Brendan Kirbach,  UCSB

“I do have friends with different political beliefs. Sometimes it becomes a problem, but you have to find some common ground and make intelligent conversation. When I’m befriending someone, I think more about their social aspects, their integrity, and their values. Say, if I’m really into sports, and someone doesn’t like sports, I can find some common ground with them, but I probably won’t be friends with them.”

Leah Divine, UCSB

“I have some friends who are moderate, but no one I’m friends with is very conservative or voted for Trump. I try not to talk about politicians and who they voted for, but we’ll talk about the issues instead. I think there should be more interaction, more discussion, but I think the problem is that this is a pretty liberal town [Isla Vista], and maybe some people don’t feel that there is a forum where they can do that. So, it’d be cool if there were more debates where people could engage with each other.”

Chakib Youcefi, Antioch University

“Ninety-five percent of the people I know have the same viewpoints on politics as I do. It’s not a prerequisite to be a friend of mine, but I would probably have a hard time hanging out with someone that has different viewpoints. I feel that as a student, it is important that you are able to express the perspective of the other side, but I feel the culture of the school disqualifies people that actually feel that way.”

Darren Kaye, UCSB

“I am friends with people who have different political views than me. Most of the time, we ignore it. Sometimes we get into heated debates, depends on how much we’ve had to drink. Honestly, if they still are Trump supporters, I might ditch them. During the campaign I could understand it. I could see where they were coming from. Nowadays, however, it’s lost on me.”

Ava Feiz, SBCC/Antioch University

“We’re a broad group of friends so most of us have different political views. We all come from different backgrounds. Politics isn’t something we talk about when we hang out. Obviously around the election we talked about it a lot. It got pretty heated, but it’s not something we talk about often. I feel like people hang out with whoever and then if they have different political views – that’s not what they’re looking for in each other.”

Dominick DiCesare, UCSB

“Personally, I’ve lost many friends. It was very vitriolic, to find that people would hate my guts just because of my political views.”

Angel Connally,  UCSB

“I want to have friends who have the same moral values as I do. Political opinions don’t have anything to do with if we’re going to have a friendship or not. I think that people here [at UCSB] are pretty accepting of each other’s views.”

Braxton Joehnk, SBCC

“You don’t pick your friends based on your political stands. Being from Wisconsin, people are typically more right-wing and out here it’s definitely more left-wing. I don’t see a problem with it. Politics just doesn’t come up too often. I’m friends with people typically just because they’re cool.”

Damon Hickman,  Antioch University

“I do. I will be honest, most of my friends do share a similar idea of politics. But I do have a few close friends who have different opinions. I have learned that the only tension is self-created. Antioch has taught me that the power of communication is a good way to learn. I think Antioch is open to different viewpoints, but whether or not students who have those viewpoints wish to express them is a different story.”

Bryanna Phan, UCSB

“I don’t have that many Republican friends. The ones I have, I’m not as close with. They have views that are not aligned with the way I want to live life. But as long as they are good people and not constantly trying to inflict their values on me, I guess it’s fine.”