Delightful food aromas teased students as they waited in the line stretching around Einstein’s Bagels waiting to vote for the presidential primaries. You just might know which party they’re voting for if you ask them one thing:
It may not be a perfect barometer. But in some cases, it’s a pretty easy guess. Prior interests have an influence on many students when they declare a major. That includes their politics.
For Sabrina Burkholder, the connection is clear. Burkholder is a junior biology major with an emphasis in pre-pharmacy and has always been interested in the world of science.
“I like how it’s pretty cut and dry,” she said. “It’s straightforward. There’s no philosophy; it’s either x, y, or z.”
As for her politics, Burkholder identifies as a Republican for the same reason; issues in her pre-pharmacy classes are cut and dry. She believes policies such as gun control and immigration should be straightforward as well.
“You either want it or you don’t,” Burkholder said.
She is also pro-life to an extent and believes this stems from her studies. “As a science major, I believe life starts at conception,” she said.
Politics are important to Burkholder, but her political beliefs do not solely come from biology. She was raised religiously and says her Christian faith correlates with her stance on certain policies, like abortion.
“It helps that a lot of my views and beliefs align with science,” Burkholder said. “It just makes sense to me.”
Following a similar mindset is Hannah Andersen. Andersen is a junior theater technology major, whose interest in the field began her sophomore year of high school. She wanted to be involved in theater but didn’t want to perform, which is why she chose to be on the technology side.
“A bunch of different people working together to achieve a common goal is something I really enjoy,” she said.
Andersen identifies as a Democrat and agrees with the party’s stance on national issues. Particularly policies regarding rights for minority groups, the environment, and gun control. She thinks entertainment is often used as a call for change regarding social policies such as these.
“Film and TV can be a good platform for political change because they reach an incredibly wide audience,” Andersen said.
There is a certain degree of correlation between her major and her political standing, Andersen said.
“I don’t think I am liberal because I am in the arts. I think I am drawn to the environment of the arts because I am liberal,” she said.
Max Lopez, the president of the Chapman Democrats club, is a double major in political science and peace studies. He has been politically aware from a young age.
Lopez grew up listening to his dad’s stories living in Chile, which affects the way he sees the world.
“Since my parents are pretty liberal I kind of grew up with that lens,” he said.
Despite this, he was not sure what he wanted to do when he first declared political science as his major.
“I got involved with Chapman Democrats because I thought it was a really good learning experience for myself,” he said.
His second major? Peace Studies. He says that the major fits with his focus on conflict resolution.
“If we’re looking at Chapman Democrats as a whole, I think that [the majors of] everybody involved are political in some way,” Lopez said.
Club members who major in political science are present at meetings the most often, according to Lopez.
The Vice President of Chapman Republicans, junior Diana Abyad, is an accounting major. She has always had an interest in business and watched Shark Tank growing up.
“I want to become a lawyer and specialize in tax law to have a stable income and a good quality of life,” she said.
Abyad says politics are important to her. Key issues that matter to her are economics and how the government spends money, an obvious correlation to her major. She also strongly supports the free market.
Abyad first joined Chapman Republicans to find an organization and community that upheld her interests. She has gained a lot of insight, perspective, and information on political issues from being in the club, she said.
“I have made friends who share the same values of being a conservative, such as valuing traditions and patriotism,” Abyad said.
Abyad thinks there is a connection between her major and political beliefs, and that this applies to other students as well.
“Most business people believe in right-wing economics,” she said.
Chapman Republican members are mainly business, pre-law, data analytics, and computer science majors, according to Abyad.
Chapman University has an undergraduate enrollment of 7,656 and offers 65 majors through 11 schools and 130 degrees and programs. This allows for a student body with diverse pursuits in a county that has diverse values. Orange County, a historically red county, flipped blue in 2018.
John Compton, a Chapman professor of political science, says that students self-select a major based on what subject they are passionate about.
While he’s not sure about the major/political party connection, he does say these passions may relate to certain policies the student believes in.
“If you’re interested in the environment we have an environmental policy major,” Compton said. “If you’re interested in issues of racial equality we have minors and majors that deal with that.”
Statistics that Compton has studied show that the most important determinant in someone’s political standing is family.
“It’s true that certain majors tend to be more politically liberal or conservative than others but there’s not much evidence that the instruction is making people that way,” he said. “Family is much more [determining].”
There is a correlation between what draws students to a major and the political doctrines that are important to them. The connection stems from the type of community and its components that a student favors, which can be traced back to their upbringing.
“Politics are increasingly part of people’s identity in a way that it didn’t used to be in the past,” Compton said. “They view it as a representation of their values.”
Junior Jennifer Losch, an editing major in the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, said she has been passionate about entertainment her whole life. Losch is also a proud Democrat, she said.
“I belong to the Democratic Party because I believe in their ideals, such as equal representation, women’s rights, the right to abortion, and universal healthcare,” she said.
Losch thinks that her major and her political affiliation are two separate decisions she made. However, the two are often interlinked.
“There have been many issues at Chapman that have sparked political strife that Dodge students have boycotted, such as The Birth of a Nation poster and when Max Landis was scheduled to speak,” she said.
The Birth of a Nation, a 1915 film about the Ku Klux Klan, is known as one of the most controversial movies of all time. A poster for the film was located in Marion Knott Studios until April 2019 when it was taken down following student protests.
Screenwriter Max Landis was scheduled to guest lecture for the New Era of Television class until a television writing and production major sent an email to the class about sexual assault allegations against Landis. The lecture was canceled after students planned a mass walkout.
“The majority of students in my major and the Dodge college are Democrat,” according to Losch. “I know this because most students are very open about their political beliefs.”