Conservative students are far more willing to befriend a liberal student than are liberal students willing to befriend a conservative. Their dating habits are even worse.

Self-censorship is also more common among conservative students. Not surprisingly, it’s probably to avoid getting a bad grade, being ostracized or bullied online. Yet, alarmingly, far more conservative students are the targets of dispaaging comments than are students of color, Muslim students, or LGBTQ students.  

These are few of the findings from a research study of the experiences and views of undergraduates at the University of North Carolina. These may not apply to every college campus, but they give us a glimpse into the environment at other schools.

Here are 7 surprising differences between liberal and conservative students:

  1. 23 percent of self-identified liberal students would not befriend a conservative student versus 3 percent of conservative students who wouldn’t befriend a liberal.

  2. 60 percent of liberal students would not date a conservative, compared to 30 percent of conservatives who wouldn’t date a liberal. 

  3. 57 percent of liberal students said they hear “disrespectful, inappropriate, or offensive comments” about conservatives at least several times a semester. This is compared to 10 percent who hear such comments about foreign students, 14 percent who hear disparaging comments about Muslims, 20 percent who hear such comments about African Americans, 20 percent who hear such comments about Christians, and 21 percent who hear such comments about LGBTQ individuals. 

  4. 3x the proportion of conservatives censored themselves at least once (67.9 percent) compared to the proportion of liberals who did the same (24.1 percent)

  5. 31 percent of conservatives reported feeling worry that expressing sincere views would result in 1) receiving a lower grade, 2) other students having a lower opinion of them, and 3) having critical comments posted on social media “several” times or “most weeks,” versus a mere 1.5 percent of liberal students and 10.9 percent of moderate students.

  6. 69 percent of liberal students think conservative students are racist. (Compared to 29 percent of conservative students who think that of liberal students.)

  7. 70 percent of liberal students think conservative students are sexist. (Compared to 33 percent of conservative students who think that of liberal students.)

In the words of one respondent:

[T]here are times when in class discussions, if you’re outwardly conservative, sometimes you have to dial what you say back for fear of ridicule by your peers and your professor at the same time… when politics come up, you have to find the…you kind of have to tip toe around it. You know, you have to say what you believe, but you also have to say it in a way that you’re protecting yourself from being called…a racist or a Nazi or some other derogative names. Just because you believe in a small government, so you really have to tiptoe around the way you present your views.

In college, I always had more liberal-leaning friends than conservative friends. I didn’t care if we disagreed on politics, marriage, and the role of government. We connected on hair care, sweet-and-sour chicken, and Dawson’s Creek. 

Back in the early 00’s, conservative students on my college campus were a small, rag-tag bunch, but we were never the target of scorn that today’s conservative students are. I censored some of my thoughts in class, but I actually had left-leaning professors who welcomed my disagreement with their opinions.

Oh, how times have changed.