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Andrews and Spectrum Release Survey: Adventist Collegians on Public Issues

The survey was conducted for Spectrum by Roger Dudley, director of the Institute of Church Ministry at Andrews University. This is the third election survey of Adventists that Dudley has done for Spectrum during the past twenty years. Complete results from the survey will be included in the next issue of Spectrum, to be published in early December. Students at Andrews University, Southern Adventist University, Union College, La Sierra University, Pacific Union College, and Walla Walla University participated.
-Bonnie Dwyer


Students in Seventh-day Adventist Colleges and Universities in the United States closely resemble national polls on the eve of election 2008. A web-based survey of the students in six American institutions of higher learning taken during October revealed that:

  • 38% planned to vote for Barack Obama for president of the United States,
  • 28% for John McCain,
  • while 13% were still undecided,
  • and 16% did not plan to vote.

This is a reverse of 2004 where while 75% did not vote (perhaps because of age), 14% voted for George Bush and only 9% for John Kerry. Not only that, 31% identified themselves with the Republican party compared with 29% who considered themselves Democrats. The largest identification (40%) was Independent. This suggests that some Republicans may have voted for Obama, but it was the Independents who gave him the collegiate victory.

Students were given a list of nine issues and asked to rate their importance from “not important” to “most important.” Combining “very important” and “most important,” the top three issues were:

  • “the state of the economy”(91%),
  • “human rights and justice” (88%),
  • “separation of church and state” (82%).

Lowest among the choices was: “a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages” (40%).

In choosing the economy, the students reflected the concerns of their elders, but the high choice of human rights and justice seems to be a departure from typical Adventist thinking.

In considering abortion, the students rejected the extremes of “abortion is entirely the woman’s choice” (29%) and “abortion is not acceptable under any conditions” (18%) to choose the middle ground: “abortion is acceptable in extreme circumstances such as rape, incest, and threat to the mother’s life” (53%). This stance adheres most closely to the guidelines published by the church.

The survey also explored religious practices and viewpoints. For example:

  • 72% reported that they prayed daily under most circumstances, and only 6% seldom or never prayed.
  • Bible study was engaged in at least weekly for 64%, daily for 30%, and only 15% seldom or never studied their Bibles.
  • Assuming they were in a family setting, 13% participated in daily family worship, and another 27% at least weekly.

As to how they would self-identify their religious orientation, 24% were fundamentalist or conservative and 22% liberal. The majority (53%) took the middle position of moderate. Religious faith is quite or extremely important to 89% of the students with only 3% saying it was not really important. Finally, 76% said that their religion influenced their voting behavior.

The six colleges and universities that participated were scattered throughout the country, thus assuring a national sample. While selection of the students was voluntary, not random, the findings show that there was a balance between the various poles of political and public opinion.

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