The CIRP freshman survey gives us a lot of insight into students’ political beliefs and orientation. So, naturally, we were interested to see how recent CIRP data aligned with the student vote in this year’s election.

We know that over the past three years students’ self- described political affiliations (liberal, conservative or middle of the road) haven’t changed all that much. We saw a very subtle drop in students who identified as conservative and a slight increase in those that described their politics as middle of the road.

Yet, not as many students voted Democratic in this election. While the overwhelming majority of young people still voted Democratic (60 percent voted for President Obama and 37 percent for Governor Romney), in 2008, 66 percent voted for President Obama.

What has changed since 2008, and it was one of the main takeaways from last year’s Freshman Survey report, is that students are increasingly demonstrating more liberal views on many social issues, including same-sex marriage, affirmative action and access to higher education for undocumented students.

• An unprecedented 71.3 percent of incoming college students indicated that same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status, compared with 64.9 percent in 2009, a remarkable 6.4 percentage-point increase over a two-year period

• The number of students supporting preferential treatment in college admissions rose from 37.4 percent in 2009 to 42.1 percent in 2011, a 4.7 percentage-point increase

• Student opposition to educational access for undocumented students dropped by 4.2 percentage points, from 47.2 percent to 43.0 percent in 2011

Students’ liberal leanings on these social issues are certainly in line with the overwhelming Democratic vote by young people. It would be far-fetched to say that the CIRP survey predicted the student vote, but we do think the survey results demonstrate the value in a tool that captures a comprehensive portrait of the changing character of our nation’s students.

Check out this infographic on the college vote that uses CIRP data.