LOS ANGELES, July 29, 2004 ( – Strongly religious college students tend to identify themselves as politically conservative and hold conservative views on issues of sex, abortion, gay rights, and drugs, according to new research released today by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.  The analysis, part of a national study of 3,680 third-year college students at 46 diverse colleges and universities, also shows that about one-fifth of college students are “highly religious,” while about the same number have low levels of religious engagement.  Highly religious was defined as a pattern of behavior that includes such things as attending religious services, reading sacred texts, attending religious/spiritual workshops or retreats, and joining a religious organization on campus.  Students who are highly engaged religiously differ from their less religious classmates in their attitudes about a number of social issues. The largest gap is in views about casual sex, with only 7% of highly religious students (compared to 80% of the least religious students) agreeing with the proposition that “if two people really like each other, it’s all right for them to have sex even if they’ve known each other for only a very short time.”

The most and least religious students also differ substantially in their rates of agreement with legalized abortion (24% versus 79%) and legalization of marijuana (17% versus 64%). And when it comes to “laws prohibiting homosexual relationships,” highly religious students are much more likely to support such laws (38%) than are the least religious students (17%).  Students who identify themselves as politically “conservative,” compared to those who self-identify as “liberal,” are substantially more likely to show high levels of religious commitment (50% versus 18%) and religious engagement (37% versus 10%), and also more likely to show high levels of equanimity (35% versus 23%) and self-esteem (37% versus 29%).  jhw


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