Findings from the 2017 Eau Claire Longitudinal Student Survey

| Peter Hart-Brinson

Did you know that 35% of UWEC students describe their political beliefs as "liberal" or "very liberal," while 24% describe them as "conservative" or "very conservative?"

Did you know that 2/3 of female students report using social media multiple times per day, compared to only about 1/3 of male students?

These are some of the findings from the inaugural Eau Claire Longitudinal Student Survey (ECLSS), a collaborative research project between students in the Sociological Research Methods course and faculty from across the university. The survey, which featured questions on eight different topics designed by groups of researchers, was distributed to a random sample of 500 students enrolled at UW-Eau Claire in the Spring 2017 semester. In the end, 126 students completed the survey, yielding a response rate of 25.2%. 

The topics included in the survey ranged from knowledge and opinions about birth control to use of McIntyre Library to opinions about religion in politics. Five topical modules were designed by students exclusively, while three were designed by faculty members from across the university. The survey also asked to complete a standard battery of demographics questions.

Below are some of the more interesting findings from selected topics:

Health Education

  • Two-thirds of students say they exercise more than once per week.
  • There are no gender differences in how often students exercise, set goals for calorie intake, or read nutrition and ingredient labels on foods.

Birth Control

  • 58% of students say premarital sex is "acceptable under any circumstances.
  • Female students were familiar with significantly more types of birth control than male students, and female students were significantly more likely to say there should be more options for contraceptives for men.

Safety and Inclusion on Campus

  • The percentage of students who say that racism on campus is "very" or "somewhat serious" (40%) is equal to the percentage who say that it is "not very" or "not at all serious."
  • Female students feel less safe than male students when they are alone on campus at night.
  • Students of color are more likely than white students to say they have felt invalidated by others because of their race, but there is no difference in the likelihood that female or male students have felt invalidated because of their gender.

Religion on Campus

  • 24% of students report being involved in a religious organization on campus.
  • 44% of students report that they "never" attend religious services in college.

Religion in Politics

  • Only 16% of students approve of the Trump administration's executive order temporarily banning people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States.
  • 57% of students said they see or hear news about the Trump administration at least once per day.

Communication Behaviors

  • 66% of students "agree" or "strongly agree" that they enjoy learning about the personal lives of others on social media, but only 26% "agree" or "strongly agree" that they enjoy sharing details about their own personal life on social media.
  • Only 20% of students said that "entitled" describes themselves "a lot" or "somewhat," but 77% said that other people their age are "a lot" or "somewhat" entitled.
  • Female students are significantly more likely than male students to describe themselves as "trustworthy," "enthusiastic," "caring," "empathetic," and "happy."

 

The small number of respondents means that the above estimates have a much higher margin of error than most public opinion surveys, so the numbers above are not exact. However, the bias due to non-response is actually much lower than that found in conventional surveys, and differences reported above are statistically significant.

The ECLSS will be repeated again in 2018, featuring a new group of researchers and new topics. With each passing year, we will learn more and more about the UWEC student population, and by comparing data from one year to the next, we will learn how the opinions, attitudes, and experiences of students change over time, and ultimately, from one generation to the next.