How do the religious beliefs and political leanings of the Class of 2025 compare to their other survey responses?

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series about the Class of 2025 based on an investigation by The Chronicle. You can learn more about our methodology and our limits hereor see all of our investigative coverage here.

We asked respondents from the Class of 2025 about their religious beliefs and political leanings. Then, we compared these aspects to their responses to other survey questions, from their interest in Greek life to opinions on Duke’s COVID-19 policies.

Among survey respondents, most first-years identified themselves as liberal, with 40.7 percent as “somewhat liberal” and 32.3 percent as “very liberal.” More than 20% of students identified themselves as “moderate”, 6.1% as “somewhat conservative” and 0.5% as “very conservative”.

A majority of first-graders also indicated low levels of religiosity, with 68.7% responding “not at all” or “not very” religious. As levels of religiosity increased, there were fewer first-years – 17% identified as “somewhat religious”, followed by 11.5% “religious” and 2.8% “very religious”.

A closer look at religious views among first-year respondents reveals that the largest group (24.1%) identify as atheists, followed by agnostics (23.5%). The largest percentage of people who follow a religious denomination are Catholics (15.7%). Just under 12% of respondents are Jewish, 11.1% are Protestant and 0.4% are Muslim. One student selected “Buddhist” and 10.4% of respondents selected “Other”.

political leanings

Political leanings and religiosity

The more liberal first-years identify, the less religious they are

The more first-graders identify as liberal, the less religious they are, and vice versa. Almost 40% of all “very liberal” first graders in our survey identify as “not at all religious” and just over 33% identify as “not very religious.”

A majority of ‘somewhat conservative’ students indicated some religiosity, with 17.4% as ‘very religious’ and 26.1% as both ‘somewhat religious’ and ‘religious’. All “very conservative” students identified as “religious” or “very religious” are evenly distributed.

Among religious denominations, first-grade Muslims were the most liberal group, with 77.8% responding “fairly” or “very” liberal, while Hindu respondents were the most moderate, with 36.8%.

Protestant, Catholic and Jewish respondents had similar splits in liberal and moderate beliefs, with 69.5%, 64% and 70.3%, respectively, liberal leaning, 18.6%, 20% and 24%, respectively, moderate. But while 5.4% of Jewish freshmen said they had “somewhat conservative” leanings, 12% of Protestant respondents and 12% of Catholic respondents identified themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative. In both groups, respondents indicated “very conservative” beliefs.

Note: The category “Buddhist” contains one student and was excluded from the analysis.

Political leanings and race

Most racial groups identify as liberal-leaning

The majority of all racial groups identified as “very” or “somewhat” liberal: 96.3% of Black or African American students, 81.3% of Hispanic or Latinx students, and just under 72% of Asian students, white students, and students who selected “A race/ethnicity not listed here.”

“Very conservative” students were only represented in the multiracial category, at 3%. Students who selected “A race/ethnicity not listed here” had the highest percentage (14.3%) of “somewhat conservative” students, followed by multiracial students.

Note: The category “American Indian or Alaska Native” contains one student and was excluded from the analysis. The category “A race/ethnicity not listed here” contains seven students.

Political leanings and views on Duke’s COVID-19 policies

Conservative students more likely to report ‘strongly adverse’ views on Duke’s COVID-19 policies

All of the students who identified as “very conservative” described their views on Duke’s COVID-19 policies as “strongly unfavorable.” About 43.5% of “somewhat conservative” students reported “strongly unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” views.

The trend generally holds the other way: the more liberals students identified, the more they reported favorable views of Duke’s COVID-19 policies. Just under 58.5% of “somewhat liberal” students and 62.3% of “very liberal” students declared “favourable” or “strongly favourable” opinions.

A slightly higher percentage of “somewhat conservative” students reported “supportive” or “strongly supportive” views than “moderate” students – 47.8% versus 45.5%, respectively.

Political inclinations and Greek life

Most first-years uninterested in Greek life are liberal-leaning

Early years who were “somewhat liberal” and “very liberal” reported similar levels of interest and disinterest in Greek life at Duke. 50% of those who were “extremely interested” and 60% of “very interested” respondents identified themselves as Liberals. At the same time, a majority of students “not at all interested” are liberal (75.6%).

Similar levels of freshmen in our survey, regardless of political leaning, said they were “extremely interested” in Greek life at Duke, with 27.8% being “very liberal” students, 22.2% “rather liberal”, 27.8% “moderate” and 22.2% “somewhat conservative.” On the other hand, a greater number of first-year liberals – 40.3% “very liberal” and 35.4% “somewhat liberal” – declared no interest in joining Greek life.

Political leanings and family income

More than 95% of students with household incomes below $40,000 reported having “moderate,” “somewhat liberal,” or “very liberal” political beliefs. Similar percentages can be seen in all income brackets up to $500,000. Among students who reported incomes above $500,000, this segment drops to 81.5%.

First years who identified as “very conservative” accounted for 2.56% of first years with family income between $40,000 and $80,000 and 1% of those between $125,000 and $250,000. The largest percentage of freshmen with conservative beliefs also had household incomes over $500,000, with 18.5% of these students identifying as “somewhat conservative.”

Note: The eleven students who did not report family income were excluded from the analysis.

Political leanings and legacy status

Just under 71% of freshmen who don’t have a parent or sibling who attended Duke identify themselves as “somewhat” or “very” liberal; for bequests, it climbs to 79.5%. Just over 6% in the inherited and non-inherited categories are “somewhat conservative” early years.


Religiosity and race

Asian, white, and multiracial first-year students had “not at all religious” and “not very religious” majorities, at 69.1%, 64.9%, and 62.7%, respectively.

Just under 86% of students who chose ‘a race/ethnicity not listed here’ identify as ‘somewhat religious’, ‘religious’ or ‘very religious’. These students were the most likely to be very religious, at 14.3%.

More than 44% of Black or African American freshmen identify as “religious” or “very religious” and 29.6% as “somewhat religious”. Nearly 38% of first-year Hispanic or Latino students identified themselves as “religious” or “very religious” and 18.8% as “somewhat religious.”

Note: The category “American Indian or Alaska Native” contains one student and was excluded from the analysis. The category “A race/ethnicity not listed here” contains seven students.

Milla Surjadi
| Chief Editor

Milla Surjadi is a sophomore at Trinity and editor of the 118th volume of The Chronicle.