While most high school students are still under the voting age, many Belmont Hill and Winsor students found themselves interested, invested, and involved in the 2020 presidential election. Whether you took time out of busy homework schedules to watch the debates, scoured the electoral college map for slight changes, or simply waited patiently for the results, each step of the process was highly anticipated during this election. Due to the politically interested student bodies at both schools, we felt that collecting data and opinions on each school’s political balance was necessary to assess and promote political diversity in our respective communities. We primarily looked at survey and mock election results to analyze the party affiliations and presidential election results at each school.
We would like to thank students and faculty at both schools for their participation in each questionnaire as each of the school’s results allowed for a comprehensive analysis of the respective political environments and dynamics.
Belmont Hill Perspective:
As Joe Biden neared victory in the presidential election, the world looked ahead to new American leadership. The world’s attention was closely focused on the delayed results amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. On the day of the election, November 3rd, the Belmont Hill community continued its tradition of facilitating a mock election every four years through a Google Form poll. This election is often used to break down the political balance within the Belmont Hill School. Of the 473 responses received this year, 36.2% identified as Democrats, 29.3% as Independents or Other, 23.5% as Republicans, and 11% as undecided. This breakdown indicates that our community has a rather diverse political affiliation with more members being moderates than either side of the political spectrum. Compared to the overall trend among Generation Z, members of the BH community exhibit a similar pattern of decreased certainty about their votes and choices driven heavily by an anti-Trump backlash. A potential reason behind this is the increasing diversity of the new generation, with 48% of America’s youth being nonwhite. Furthermore, Trump’s exclusive immigration policies remain largely unpopular among Gen Z minority teenagers, as 29% of them are the children of immigrants or are immigrants themselves. On the question regarding the choice for presidency, 64% of participants cast votes for president-elect Joe Biden, with independents splitting heavily in favor of Biden/Harris (63%-25%). Even among the conservatives on campus, BH Republicans were very likely influenced by anti-Trump movements, since 17% of Republicans voted for Biden. Although the party affiliation results suggest that Belmont Hill is a politically diverse community, this year in particular, being a Trump supporter can call for judgment and exclusion, especially given the overwhelmingly Democratic nature of Massachusetts. As Joe Biden prepares for his four years in the White House, it is not only the people in the field of politics that the election of a new President affects – a new leader in the White House can alter the country’s education policy and its approach to the COVID pandemic which are all closely related to our daily life. Therefore, the Belmont Hill community and members of The Panel will continue to strive for a campus where all opinions can be shared and all voices can be heard.
Annually, Winsor holds a Curriculum Day when the community takes a break from classes to hear from speakers, generate discussions, and voice opinions on various topics. During presidential election years, curriculum day is geared towards the election and the US presidential race. This year, however, Winsor tackled discussions about the election in slightly different ways. In the Upper School, many teachers allowed students to reflect upon and share comments, concerns, or questions about the highly contested presidential race between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in classes. However, many of the discussions were very partisan, in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. To get a sense of the broader political balance at Winsor, we sent out an anonymous survey to the Upper School asking students about their party affiliation, opinions on Winsor’s involvement (or perhaps lack thereof) in politics, and suggestions for how Winsor could tackle politics at school in the future.
Based on 132 responses, roughly half the Upper School, we confirmed our prediction that the vast majority of the Winsor Upper School student body is Democratic. 75.8% of respondents identified themselves as Democrats, 11.3% as Other or Undecided, 7.6% as Independents, and 2.3% as Republicans. Even more staggering, 95.5% of respondents declared they would have backed the Biden/Harris ticket, while only 3% would have voted for a Trump/Pence re-election, and 1.5% would have voted for third party candidates.
The party affiliation results indicate that Winsor lacks political diversity. Some students suggest that the campus environment is not inclusive of a wide variety of political beliefs. When we asked Upper School students how comfortable they feel sharing their own political opinions and beliefs, 55% of students claimed to be extremely comfortable sharing their opinions; however, only 11% of students agree that Winsor maintains an environment that is inclusive of all political beliefs. One student expressed that Winsor is extremely Democratic and that people who are not Democrats “don’t have an opportunity to voice their opinions without being judged.” To combat this lack of inclusivity, one student suggested, “I think there should be bipartisan speakers or even simply Republicans/moderates who come to speak at our school. The way in which I’ve heard some people talk about Republicans is really dangerous because it is in an unkind, and at times, uninformed manner.”
Additionally, we examined how students perceive Winsor’s involvement in political discussions. While most students claim that Winsor is either somewhat or a little involved in politics, a common theme expressed by students is a concern with the quality of conversation rather than the quantity. As one student put it: “I think the frequency is fine, but the topics of discussions are often subpar.”
Although both schools have consistently encouraged their students to be open-minded about other political views and made an effort to have thoughtful discussions within the campus, it is still difficult for individuals to be inclusive in today’s extremely polarized political environment. While a clear party disparity exists between the two schools, this difference creates an unique opportunity for students to hear diverse voices by engaging in conversations with students from the other school. Imagine a conservative Belmont Hill student starts a conversation with a liberal student at Winsor. Each could learn the other’s perspective and develop a more comprehensive understanding of both sides to an issue. These healthy conversations will not only further strengthen the bond between our schools, but also will also create a group of teenagers who understand the importance of working together to foster diversity in opinions. This will be a crucial skill in the modern social climate. We believe that facilitating political discussions between Winsor and Belmont Hill would be greatly beneficial, as they would produce positive contributions from students, and increase academic cooperations between the schools.