May 26, 2016 | By Chuck Carlson
In the current supercharged red vs. blue political climate, color Albion College students a calm shade of purple.
At least that's according to results from Collegestats.org.
The website analyzed 2.4 million tweets originating on or near college campuses across the country to determine whether their messages leaned more Republican or Democratic. The methodology actually began with more than 11 million tweets, and from that collection the website selected more than 2 million tweets from 1,537 universities and colleges.
The results showed that Albion ranked No. 2 in tweets mentioning Democrat keywords (such as Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, for example). But it also ranked No. 9 nationally in the use of Republican keywords (Donald Trump, for example).
The website drew the conclusion that, "Therefore, Albion College can easily boast the most diverse set of politically engaged students on social media."
Read the full results from the study at Collegestats.org, which went on to add that "Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that Albion….is home to the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service."
This doesn't surprise institute Director Patrick McLean.
"Certainly within institute students, they're always engaged, and when election season rolls around they're even more engaged," he said. "The Trump phenomenon has gotten more students engaged in novel ways. I don't know of any students who are Trump supporters, but I know a lot of Republican-leaning students who supported other candidates are kind of wondering where to land at this point. And Trump has motivated those on the Democratic side, too. It ramps up their motivation."
Ironically, a documentary titled Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character will be shown Friday at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic channel and will focus on Ford's turbulent two and a half years as president. (See the accompanying video, above.)
Ford was an Albion College trustee who came to campus in 1977 to help launch the institute. McLean said Ford would likely not recognize American politics in 2016.
"He always loved the Republican Party but I think he'd be, at best, very nervous and, at worst, very concerned about the turn the country may be taking in civil dialogue," he said. "He worked in solving peoples' problems, talking with people, telling the truth, and we're not seeing those kinds of characteristics on our national level right now. It's much more shrill and there's an inability to work across the aisle [in Congress]. It's becoming hard to do."
But McLean also believes this presidential campaign can offer some teachable moments for Albion students in the fall.
"It remains to be seen what the lessons of this campaign will be," he said. "We will focus on the campaign, among other things, and the special circumstances that have given rise to what we've seen in this campaign season. We'll find a way to incorporate it into our curriculum."