The student body varies greatly in both political opinions and levels of political involvement. It is nearly impossible to come to one universal conclusion concerning the topic. Many students feel strongly about controversial issues and have peacefully protested or campaigned for their candidate of choice, despite the school’s apolitical presence. Others have mild opinions and have never taken political action.
A strong majority of students at Harvard Westlake (HW) do have political opinions. When surveyed, the student body revealed that they are overwhelmingly leftist or liberal. 54 percent of students classified themselves as Democrats, 13 percent classified themselves as Republicans, 5 percent classified themselves as Libertarians, 1 percent classified themselves as Green Party supporters and 14 percent did not classify their political opinions as belonging to only one party. Only 8 percent stated that they did not have any political beliefs, revealing that HW students are certainly not apathetic when it comes to political topics and debates.
The political opinions among students and parents were generally similar. This was to be expected, as students have yet to enter the real world, where they will have experiences which prompt them to develop their own opinions. Right now, students have little reason to disagree with their parents, whom they said was their main political influence (according to the survey). 60 percent of students said their parents are Democrats, 18 percent said that their parents are Republican, 8 percent said their parents do not belong to one political party and 4 percent said that their parents do not have political beliefs. Again, it is clear that a large majority of Harvard Westlake families are Democrats.
As far as the political involvement of the school’s students, there seems to be a general consensus that there is value in kids taking political action. 72 percent of students surveyed said it is important for kids to get involved in politics, while only 13 percent disagreed.
But what, exactly, is the importance of youth involvement in politics? Because we are always more likely to be influenced by others like ourselves, youth involvement is especially vital in encouraging other youth to be informed, educated, and interested in politics.
“I think it’s important because it’s our future on the line and many of us can’t vote directly, but we can encourage others to do so; it’s our own way of getting involved in our democracy,” Ellie Baron ’21 said.
45 percent of HW students have actually taken political action at least once before. This number may not seem impressive at first glance, but it is astonishing that nearly half of the students at HW have gotten politically involved despite the fact that they are still relatively young and cannot vote. Of the 45 percent of students that got involved, 66 percent of them participated in a march or peaceful protest, 14 percent helped campaign for a candidate, and 3 percent participated in civil disobedience.
It seems as though many of the students who haven’t taken political action thus far are actually willing and able to get involved, but need to be provided with the right opportunities. Of the 55 percent of students who have not taken political action, 20 percent said that they want to get involved but simply haven’t had the chance and 58 percent said that they would possibly get involved under the right circumstances. Only 13 percent said that they are not interested in getting involved. This means there is a strong potential for student involvement at HW, because even the students who haven’t taken political action are clearly not opposed to the idea.